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“Why Is This Age Worse…?” by Anna Akhmatova


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…?”
Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Stanley Kunitz
Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
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.

— 1919

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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.

Read more works by Anna AkhmatovaFind books by this poet • Or view my library

Explore poems in pursuit of: timegriefexistence • Or browse the index


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Comments (11)

  • Kim Rosen

    Just want to sing back to you from across the sea that I’ve been reading your posts for years. I am so grateful for your voice.I get about a dozen poems each day from various sites, and am most thankful not only for the poems you choose, but, even more, your own writings and the deep musings within the words. Deep bows.

  • I was just comforting myself that Akhmatova was talking about man-made plagues and man-caused wars and disasters.

    But the conscience in my head interrupted this thought. We are in the midst of a ‘natural’ pandemic but its effects would be negligible if we had a world in which everyone had access to preventative medical attention and in which nobody lived in shanty towns and favelas and ghettoes. And these, like Akhmatova’s griefs are caused by wo(men) too.

    Thank you for your postings. Sarah

  • D

    We are out there
    we are listening
    and we care
    Get well soon

  • Criena Fitzgerald

    Hi I wanted to say how much your blog means to me and how I have read poets I would not have been aware of.

    Stay healthy in these crazy times and thank you

  • Jasmine

    Dear T, please take care and be safe. Sending love in these lonely times.

  • C

    Separate, but not alone. I’m glad you’re back for however long you choose to stay.

    Stay safe.

  • Tara Tara

    I was just thinking that I was about due for a dose of your words and your choosings. Thank you.

  • Nid

    Glad you are back. Stay beautiful.

  • Are you still here? All that talk of fever and numbness has us worried.

  • OK, now I’m actually worried. Please let us know you’re OK.

  • Liesl Jobson

    Ever a joy to find your words here. Thank you, dear T. So appreciate your vulnerability on the page. Please stay safe. Hope you’re properly mended by now.


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