Bella Akhmadulina

po_Akhmadulina-BellaIzabella Akhatovna “Bella” Akhmadulina (April, 10, 1937 – November 29, 2010) was a Soviet and Russian poet, short story writer, and translator.

She was part of the Russian New Wave literary movement. She was cited by Joseph Brodsky as the best living poet in the Russian language.


THE HOSPITAL CHRISTMAS TREE
Bella Akhmadulina

They have set a Christmas tree up in a hospital ward.
It clearly feels out of place in a cloister of suffering.
The moon over Leningrad comes to my window ledge
but does not stay long—many windows, much waiting.

The moon moves on to a spry, independent old woman;
outside you can hear the susurrus sound of her trying
to hide from her neighbors and from her own shallow sleep
her breaking the norm—the blunder of illegal crying.

All the patients are worse; still, it is a Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow will some get news; some gifts; some, calls.
Life and death remain neighbors: the stretcher is always loaded;
through the long night the elevator squeaks as it falls.

Rejoice eternally, Virgin! You bore the Child at night.
There is no other reason for hope, but that matters so much,
is so huge, so eternally endless, that it
consoles the unknown, underground anchorite.

Even here in the ward where the tree makes some people cry
(did not want it; a nurse, in fact, ordered it brought)
the listening heart beats, and you hear people say,
“Hey, look! The Star of Bethlehem’s in the sky!”

The only sure facts are the cattle’s lament in the shred,
the Wise Men’s haste, the inexperienced mother’s elbow
marking The Child with a miraculous spot on His brow.
All the rest is absurd, an age-old but fugitive lie.

What matters more or brings more joy to sick flesh
wasted by work and by war than so simple a scene?
But they reproach you for drinking or some other fault
and stuff your brain with the bones of a system picked clean.

I watched the day begin breaking some time past nine;
it was a drop, a black light shining absurdly
onto the window. People dream that they heard
a little toy bell-ringer ringing the bell on the tree.

The day as it downed was week, not much of a sight.
The light was paler than pink, pastel, not harsh,
the way an amethyst shimmers on a young girl’s neck.
All looked down, once they had seen the sad, humble cross.

And when they arose, reluctantly opening their eyes,
a trolley flew by through the snowstorm, gold trim inside it.
They crowded the window like children: “Hey, look at that car!
Like a perch that’s gotten away, all speckled with fire!”

They sat down for breakfast; they argued, got tired, lay down.
The view from the window was such that Leningrad’s secrets
and splendors brought tears to my eyes, filled me with love.
“Isn’t there something you want?” “No, there’s nothing.”

I have long been accused of making frivolous things.
Frivolity maker, I look at those here around me:
O Mother of God, have mercy! And beg your Son, too.
On the day of His birth, pray and weep for us each.