Lives of The Poets: Chapter One

“[Akhmatova] was slow to accept his proposal. He
sought her attention by repeated attempts at suicide
until she finally married him in 1910.”

— Jane Kenyon, from the introduction to Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova.

The way to a woman’s heart is through
the emergency room. Just follow that
thready blue vein there at the pulse.

Or the churning, gurgling stomach
pump, the furrow cut by the miraculous
bullet that somehow only grazed the skull —

roulette played with hearts, & fear for tokens.
Anna, what were you thinking? Stubborn
schoolgirl eventually swayed by theater

of the absurd? No, you say, it was like this:
Called to the doctor’s rooms that final time,
I stepped down from the carriage & saw

by dawn light against the omnipresent white,
the first red crocus of spring.

Richard Beban