As Indian summer hovers, we pause a moment with Russian poet Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (1889 – 1966), who wrote as Anna Akhmatova. In her most famous poems, she writes of far colder times, in terms of weather and far worse, as in her iconic Requiem (1935–40), an intricate cycle that reflects on the Stalinist terror. (At right, Akhmatova, her husband Nikolay Gumilev and son Lev in 1916.)

A far gentler introduction to her verse comes from these two poems, which evoke instead the ambivalent moment of this fall equinox, with their twinned delight and tension.


I pray to the sunbeam from the window –
It is pale, thin, straight.
Since morning I have been silent,
And my heart – is split.
The copper on my washstand
Has turned green,
But the sunbeam plays on it
So charmingly.
How innocent it is, and simple,
In the evening calm,
But to me in this deserted temple
It’s like a golden celebration,
And a consolation.


Tallest, suavest of us, why Memory,
forcing you to appear from the past, pass
down a train, swaying, to find me
clear profiled through the window-glass?
Angel or bird? How we debated!
The poet thought you like translucent straw.
Through dark lashes, your eyes, Georgian,
looking, with gentleness, on it all.
Shade, forgive. Blue skies, Flaubert,
Insomnia, late-blooming lilac flower,
bring you, and the magnificence of the year,
nineteen-thirteen, to mind, and your
unclouded temperate afternoon, memory
difficult for me now – Oh, shade!

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