Boris Pasternak: To Anna Akhmatova

I think I can call on words
that will last: you are there.
But if I can’t, no matter –
I’ll persist, I won’t care.

I hear the muttering of wet roofs,
pale eclogues from stones and kerb.
From the opening lines, that city,
is alive in each sound, each word.

You can’t leave town though it’s spring,
and your customers won’t wait.
Dawn glows, by lamplight sewing
with unbowed back, eyes wet.

Breathing the calm of far-off Ladoga,
stumbling towards the water.
There’s no relief from such trips.
The shallows smell mustier, darker.

The wind dances, it’s a walnut shell,
a glitter, the warm wind blows
branches and stars, lights, and views,
as the seamstress watches the flow.

Eyesight can be sharp, differently,
form be precise in varying ways,
but a solvent of acid power’s
out there under the white night’s blaze.

That’s how I see your face and look.
Not that pillar of salt, in mind,
in which five years ago you fixed
our fears of looking behind.

From your first verses where grains
of clear speech hardened, to the last,
your eye, the spark that shakes the wire,
makes all things quiver with the past.


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