Northern Elegy № 6

(A. Akhmatova)

Последний ключ – холодный ключ забвенья.
Он слаще всех жар сердца утолит.


There are three stages of remembering.
And first – as if it was the day before
The soul resides beneath their blessed vault
The body feels the pleasure of their shadow
The laughter’s not died down, the tears flow on
The inkstain hasn’t been wiped off the table
And like an imprint on the heart, a kiss
The parting kiss, the unforgettable, the only.

But this can only last a little while.
Already it’s no vault above the head
But a lone house in some forgotten suburb
Where winter’s cold and summer is too hot
With dust on everything, and spiders.
Where fiery letters are already embers
Where secretly the portraits change their faces
Where people go as if to visit gravestones
And coming back, wash off their hands with soap
And wipe a little swiftly running tear
From tired eyes. And sigh a heavy sigh.
But clocks tick on and spring arrives
One spring after another, and the sky
Turns pink, the cities change their appellations
Events have no more witnesses and there
Are none to cry with or to reminisce.
And slowly then the shadows leave us
Shadows that we no longer call out to.
And whose return would cause us to be frightened.
And once, we wake and see that we’ve forgotten
Even the way to reach that lonely house
And breathless, then, with shame and indignation
We run there, but (as happens in a dream)
There all is different: people, things, and walls
And no one knows us there – we are strangers.
We wound up at the wrong place… God!
And that is when the bitterest time arrives
We realize that we would not contain
That past within the borders of our life
That it is nearly as alien to us
As it is to the man who lives next door.
That those who died – we wouldn’t recognize them
And those who parted from us through the will of God
Got along fine without us – and it’s even
All for the best.

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