Diary of the Plague Year: Day 14 29 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

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?

Oh my heart, how you yearn
For your dying hour …
And that woman dancing there
Will eternally burn.

1 January, 1913

From:     Anna Akmatova
                Selected Poems

Translated by D M Thomas
Penguin Twentieth Century Classics

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 14 29 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Osip Mandelstam (1891-1937)

The idle life has sent us insane.
Wine in the morning, hungover by night,
How can pointless gaiety be restrained,
Your flushing face, plague-drunk again?

In handshakes at parting lies a torturing rite,
And kisses in the street at night
When heavily the rivers flow
And streetlamps like ancient torches glow.

We lie in wait for death like a wolf of myth,
But I fear the one who’ll first be dead
Is he whose lips are a care-racked red
And over whose eyes a long curl twists.

November, 1913

Poem No 2

Written in response to Anna Akhmatova – “We’re all drunkards here. …”

From:          Osip Mandelstam
                     50 Poems

Translated by Bernard Meares
New York



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 14 29 March 2020: Summertime begins

The clocks went forward at midnight. Summertime begins.

I woke up to the wind howling round the house. Luckily Conor delivered my usual order of firewood last night, three bags of logs cut up small for the wood-burners. I decide to clear out the fireplaces before stacking the baskets. The lovely ash can go on the compost heap.

On the CD – randomly chosen – Bob Marley – Uprising. Shouting along at the top of my lungs. The great thing about country living is that the neighbours are far enough away.

The only problem with this lock-down is that you start to look around, speculatively.  I don’t think this house has ever been so clean and I have already thrown out half my shoes. I am sure my wardrobe is next. I wear about 5% of my clothes, the shabbier the better as far as I am concerned. I have always felt like this, ever since I was a child. I hated getting dressed up.  When I am a millionaire I will wear specially-commissioned designer rags. Comme des Garçons spring to mind.

What is really nice about the lock-down is that more people are out walking and pottering in their gardens. A bit like the olden days when you would meet your neighbours perambulating in the fine weather. I feel a Jane Austen moment coming on.

The fireplaces are now clean and ready for action. It is one of the most primal things about living here, having a stack of wood for the fire.

I am sure there will now be an unseasonal Spring heat wave ………. please God.

The armchair in the photo is one I found in a skip in Camberwell when we were living in the squat and has been with me ever since, remember Fia?