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Today's short poem is by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966), newly translated by D. M. Thomas for our Everyman's Library Pocket Poets edition of her work. "The door is half open . . ." appeared in EVENING, published in 1912, and the poems reflect the atmosphere of strain and difficulty in her relationship with the poet Nikolai Gumilev, whom she had married in 1910 and whose departure for an extended stay in Africa inspired a number of the poems in the collection. Thomas writes in his notes about this period, "Critics have noted the influence of Art Nouveau in Akhamatova's early poetry, particularly in its mood of languorous refinement, and in the way that essential details are registered with a few subtle strokes. The former she purged from her style; the latter never left her."





The door is half open,
The sweet smell of limes . . .
On the table, forgotten,
A whip and a glove.

The lamp's yellow glow . . .
Things rustle all round.
Why did you go?
I don't understand.

More clearly I'll see
Tomorrow with fresh eyes
That life is beautiful.
Heart, just be wise.

You're completely worn out—
Beating sluggishly . . .
You know, I read somewhere
That souls do not die.


17 February 1911, Tsarskoye Selo






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Excerpt from AKHMATOVA POEMS. New translations Copyright © 2006 by D.M. Thomas. New expanded edition Copyright © 2006 by Everyman's Library. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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