“Why Is This Age Worse…?” by Anna Akhmatova
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
The tips of my fingers are numb when I wake up. It’s been happening for weeks. There’s a dull ache—a pinched nerve—in my right knee all the way up to my inner thigh. One time I was standing in the kitchen, and I hiccuped—and experienced the most painful muscle spasm in my lower back.
Is it ageing, or is it being alone, the way I notice all these twinges my body makes. When something hurts and I call out, no one will hear.
Outside, right now: people are still disinfecting the streets. Today, in the news: more cases. Scientists are saying it will get worse.
I’ve been staring at the blank page for hours now, willing myself to write. But what? Once again I circle back to questions upon questions, and never enough answers, words repeating until they lose their meaning, until all I have left is the silence.
“Why Is This Age Worse…?”Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
Translated by Stanley Kunitz
In a stupor of grief and dread
have we not fingered the foulest wounds
and left them unhealed by our hands?
In the west the falling light still glows,
and the clustered housetops glitters in the sun,
but here Death is already chalking the doors with crosses,
and calling the ravens, and the ravens are flying in.
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This poem appeared in Poems of Akhmatova by Anna Akhmatova, selected and translated by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward, published by Mariner Books, 1997. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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