1914 | St. Petersburg

A Candle in the Sun

“Tell me how men kiss you, tell me how you kiss.”

Nothing is changed: against the dining room windows
hard grains of whirling snow still beat.
I am what I was,
but a man came to me.

“What do you want?” I asked.
“To be with you in hell,” he said.
I laughed, “It’s plain you mean
to have us both destroyed.”

He lifted his thin hand
and lightly stroked the flowers:
“Tell me how men kiss you,
tell me how you kiss.”

His torpid eyes were fixed 
unblinking on my ring.
Not a single muscle stirred
in his clear, sardonic face.

Oh, I see: his game is that he knows
intimately, ardently,
there’s nothing from me he wants,
I have nothing to refuse.


Anna Akhmatova

“The Guest.” Akhmatova began writing poetry at the age of eleven and at twenty-one fell in with the Acmeists, a group of St. Petersburg poets, one of whose members, Nikolay Gumilyov, she married in 1910. In 1946, a prominent member of Joseph Stalin’s Politburo denounced her as “a mixture of nun and harlot,” and she was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers.