I’ve come to know how tired faces shrivel,
How fear, from underneath the eyelids, peeks,
How suffering and torment leaves a scribble
Of cuneiform across the dried up cheeks,
I’ve seen how dark or ash-blond strands of hair
Would unexpectedly turn silver soon thereafter,
How smiles fade from the submissive stares,
And terror trembles in the hollow laughter.
And now I pray, not for myself, but all
Who stood beside me, on that very street,
Beneath the blind and towering red wall,
Through bitter chill and scorching July heat.
The hour of remembrance is here once again.
I see, I hear, I feel you near, my friends:
The one by the window, who could barely stand,
The one, who no longer walks on this land,
She flung back her hair, as she said with a tear:
“I feel like I’m home every time I come here.”
I wish I could call each by name, but the list
Was taken away and no longer exists.
For all of them, I wove this gorgeous shawl
From fragments of phrases I took from them all.
I think of them always, wherever I go.
I'll never forget them in new times of woe.
And soon, when my mouth is sealed once again, -
The mouth that screamed for a million men, -
Let them remember me in a similar way, -
On the eve of my future memorial day.
And if, in this country, they come to agree
To raise up a statue in remembrance of me,
I’ll grant my consent to this fine celebration –
Only if promised that it never be stationed
In the land of my birth, by the picturesque coast,
(My last link to the sea has already been lost),
And not in Tsar’s garden, by the sacred old tree,
Where the grief–stricken shadow is looking for me,
But here, where I stood for three hundred hours,
Where the strong iron bars obstructed the towers.
For even in death, I’m afraid to forget
The way black marias clanged up ahead,
The way the gate shut when it was released,
As the old woman wailed like a wounded beast.
And there, unexpectedly, teardrops will flow
From the eyelids of bronze with the melting of snow,
And prison-yard pigeons will rise to the sky,
As the ships, on the Neva, pass quietly by.
By Anna Akhmatova
Translation by Andrey Kneller