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You are here: Home » Russian Poets » Bella Akhmadulina » “In Those Times..."

Bella Akhmadulina

Bella Akhmadulina

BELLA AKHMADULINA: “In Those Times..."

“In Those Times..."

To the memory of O. Mandelshtam
In those times when e’en brats grew
Into the marks to cities given,
How awfully was slim that Jew,
United Russia with the Heaven!

“It’ll be a sign,” he knew and said,
“To lay the century on my shoulders.”
What can he do? He’s poor and bared
Before the wonder his word moldeth.

His larynx’s opened so wide –
To let pour out the great oration:
What else can the life’s prose find
For cutting some without compassion?

He has the reason for his ‘brag’:
On him the two-fold pain was loomed –
A bard, whose mouth’s fully gagged,
And robbed even of bread, a gourmand.

They say, “O. Mandelshtam liked, most,
The sweetest tarts.” I feel some gladness
For knowing that … But my breath’s lost –
And I want always to be breathless. 

Does that all mean that to create,
With one’s both hands behind one tied,
And to be the unknown dead –
Isn’t plenty for the tortures’ mound?

And in one’s death, to know well
That thirst, so unquenched and childish,
Which had survived e’en in a hell,  
And ne’er just for a moment tarnished?

In my nightmare, in Heaven of mine,
(Where I am hiding him for years) –
He is alive and full, and I                                  
Feed him with tarts ... and pour my tears!

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, January 22, 2004

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