from Lyn Coffin's translation of Anna Akhmatova's Requiem
(used by the translator's permission)
This happened when only the dead wore smiles
they rejoiced at being safe from harm.
And Leningrad dangled from its jails
like some unnecessary arm.
And when the hosts of those convicted
marched by in mad, tormented throngs,
and railroad whistles were restricted
to singing separation songs.
The stars of death stood overhead,
and guiltless Russia, that pariah,
writhed under boots, all blood-bespattered,
and the wheels of many a black maria.
translation©1983 Lyn Coffin
This is a short excerpt from the introductory stanzas of the longer poem. Lyn Coffin's English version was published in her book Anna AkhmatovaPoems, Norton, 1983.