Akhmatova: An Ode

Petrograd*, I preferred to call it;
your face stood out from amongst the others,
a gardenia among chrysanthemums.
“Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen…”**
I thought, my dream-time mixed with poetry.
In such stark surroundings you caught my fancy
and I was, I must say, pleasantly surprised
to find you were the girl destined for me.

We met, second round, in a room with French windows.
I mouthed the ancient verities.
The light fell pleasantly on your face.
I remembered, not, Akhmatova.***
Later, third time paying for all,  you smiled; on the settee
so innocently.
I had not thought such innocence still existed in the world.
All my restitution had not prepared me
for a face to face encounter with what could never
be mine anymore, in all its purity.

Reader, I married her
in a hall with the ‘abomination’ kept covered.
That year the temple festival was not held, it seems.
No caparisoned elephant walked the road.
My mother had quit the world.
A lost wedding ring was re-found in the hall.
Miracle after miracle and salt.
Everything surreal whirled around
as in a kaleidoscope.
I took you like Rebecca into my tent for comfort.
You wore a sari of such taste it was clearly pleb against patrician.
I could not even see its class then.
The door that you ope none can close
or close ope, I intoned
And: Husbandman/housbonda, be not bitter; was also laughingly spoke.
We smiled and went to the jeweller’s
got us two simple plain gold rings
with our names on each other’s,
giggling, put them on
our slim ring fingers;
like truant children breaking the waves…
but in the night I tried to murder love with my lust
My poetry was bloody, though on the sheet nothing bled
O happy years, when it was the twin cities
or your place and mine – your place or mine? – and work, children, life;
all suddenly gone for ever one fine week,
the day the music died (forever?) in me.
I should have remembered Akhmatova.
For the time came when outside prison gate
she stood and pleaded with the unyielding one, Stalin
for the release of her son,
no husband by her side,
only the tired women of Russia
whose faces bled wrinkles, who found no refuge
and then-abouts she wrote her longest, greatest poem****
I sweat in exile and unending heat
My slight effort, this, my lot, all I offer
You, and my ode, Anna; this is indeed now bitter

bitter like bitter gourd
bitter like beer
waiting for the sun
in a vale filled with our tears
knowing no fear
spending the years
gaining naught
laughing at despair

Gamely, we battle on
despite knowing the truth:
I fail you daily.
You die daily
I crucify you daily
for the sake of women, sex, romance, love, poetry.
Your smile remains intact, but
brighter, ever, even than the sun
Anna Akhmatova and her son
Anna, my love, and our son and daughters
God grant your hearts’ desires
There is no peace in my Leningrad*****
for me, wicked;
mighty restless oceanic waves that never cease, stirring mire –
no gardenias in the spring,
only the memories and the rings –
if ever lost, always refound! a miracle still! –
still shining and helping us

to carry on, as if by the oracle’ decree.

I write this ode your greatness to sing
with a pen worthy of nothing
except the long road to fame’s empty pickings
Yet, I write, on, like that Palestinian poet******
Anna, no one can match your glory
Forgive me that I will never be worthy.


*in Moscow

** from the Waste Land by T.S. Eliot.

***Anna Akhmatova, Russian poetess during Stalin’s time.

**** The poem is Requiem (must reading for all poets)

*****Leningrad was earlier Petrograd.

******Mahmoud Darwish


There are many other references personal and literary, I leave it to critics to tease them out.

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About terrestrian@gmail.com

Dr A.V. Koshy is presently working as Assistant Professor in Dept. of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has authored or co-authored seven or eight books of poetry, theory and criticism. He is an editor and anthologist. He is also a distinguished teacher of the English language and literature and a critic, with a Ph.D in modern poetry, specifically Samuel Beckett's poems in English. He was a Pushcart Prize nominee for poetry in 2012 and his book Art of Poetry was selected as Best Reads 2012 by Butterfly and the Bee. He has been editor's pick on Camel Saloon thrice and poet of the month thrice in Destiny Poets UK besides often having his poems appear in the highly selected category. Has other international awards, diplomas and certificates to his credit too.

5 thoughts on “Akhmatova: An Ode

  1. Louis Kasatkin

    Ambitious in scope ,magesterial in presentation and exuding impeccable erudition and verve. The poem is by no means an easy encounter for the unwary or casual reader.My own estimate is that 3 complete read-throughs and some research into the subject matter are the intellectual asking price for admitting one’s curiousity into the viewing gallery for such a work.

    1. Louis Kasatkin

      some concise notes about Akhmatova would perhaps suffice.I merely emphasised the virtues of readers having to do more.I like to discourage laziness.

  2. Louis Kasatkin

    Destiny Poets’ International Community of Poets ( ICOP ) are pleased to announce that for June 2013 , the following works have been chosen in the categories of Poem of the Month and Highly Commended . *** Poem of the Month..The infinite mirrors of Ocean – Iulia Gherghei…***…In the category of Highly Commended ( tabulated in alphabetical order)… **..Akhmatova – Ampat Koshy..**…**..(The)Charred Page – Sana Rose..**…**..Fever – Mary Annie..**…**..Field Walking – Elizabeth Hexberg..**…**..I’m Walking Mammy – Sharon Elizabeth Walker..**…**..Inimitable moments – Gopal Lahiri..**…**..(The)Modern Mourning – Nalini Srivastava..**…**..(The)Morning – Sangeeta Suneja..**…**..(The)Music of soul – Diwakar Pokhriyal..**…**..Swing – Rahul Aithal..**…**..Thought Chat – Reena Prasad..**…**..You – Jobale Wihnope..**…….* The ICOP Poetry Critic (Bi-Monthly) for May/June 2013 is.. Nalini Srivastava.

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