We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.
Joylessly we’re stuck together.
On the walls, scarlet
Flowers, birds of a feather
Pine for clouds. Your black pipe
Makes strange shapes rise.
I wear my skirt tight
To my slim thighs.
Windows tightly shut.
What’s that? Frost? Thunder?
Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,
From a cautious cat?
O my heart, how you yearn
For your dying hour…
And that woman dancing there
Will eternally burn.
— Anna Akhmatova, 1913, trans. from the Russian by D.M. Thomas
The meaning in words is hard to find, and some say the meaning’s not the art. So watch the images, I guess. Flat concupiscence on the page — scarlet openings. The sin in your head you can’t wash out; a thought bubble scribbled around the edge gets you off like a child. Put that smoke in the pipe, father, and up it goes — a border for those thighs. Tight together the windows like panels squeeze; one furry cat for a close up, cute marketing genius. And then the picture that moves and doesn’t move; time’s a space — a sequence in hell or melodrama.
I’m not sure how not to think of harlots, nor the drunkards staggering and never saying “drunk”. Stay in the lines, words, and we’ll look over here, at the icon that sings and will save us if only we gouge out our eyes.
The entire roundtable Attack of the Literaries is here.