Today, watching a soldier nail a live hawk to a fence post by its wings,
I thought of you, how you stood in line outside the prison,
wanting to see your son.
Every face in the January cold had gums that bled
and skin creases deep enough to hold
the iced-over Neva's broken vodka bottles.
And yet, as always, there was that about you.
To gently remove the white scarf from your head,
to see the mist pulling back from the meadow by the woods,
even now this is what I want to do, as my free hand,
a caravan with one oasis on its mind,
migrates up your thigh between your legs.
Even aging, Anna, you were the woman I loved most --
"The last great passion of my life," I told you once.
And yet now I must confess that what you wrote me
years ago is true, "All promises are broken soon enough."
It's because you hailed from a mesmerizing town of riddles
that I was a non-riddle to you, easily figured out;
you laughed, composing more poems with one yawn in your easy chair
than I could write in a year while hunched over my desk.
Yet sometimes, Anna, I now forget
your black hair when you were young, and your face,
which, as beautiful as it was so long ago,
was more than just a face:
like the era itself, it was frightened by how it moaned
as mobs, sobbing lamentations, trudged through snow-piled streets
while you wrote funeral music for every living thing, even rats.
What beauty, so regal yet so pained.
And yet you, whom I never can forget, I now forget
for hours at a stretch, as another woman writes to me
"I get so wild for you, like an animal."
I find such words embarrassing, Anna, I'm too old;
like a fisherman's wooden bucket lost in the Baltic Sea,
my body softens, pieces of it rot and loosen,
and that's only the beginning;
given this, how can any woman talk sexually to me and be sincere?
At your gravesite, Anna, the last snow has melted
as has every promise I ever made.
I hate spring -- it's so passionate and youthful.
You once lived in a gloomy house on the Neva's bank.
You knew Count Zubov there.
I don't care about these things. I want to think of her.
More skilled than your first gravediggers, this woman's
burying you too deep to locate.
I love her, Anna, yet your absence
is the Siberia in which I'm fated to pass away --
but I can't.
To dream of her, I must live.
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