Mirkka Jokelainen

Recording of Anna Akhmatova reading her poem
‘Mayakovsky in 1913’

Я тебя в твоей не знала славе,
Помню только бурный твой рассвет.*

On a recording of Anna Akhmatova reading her poem
‘Mayakovsky in 1913’,
I hear my grandmother’s soft Ls and the rhythm
of her speech.

I let it play like a chant

that could return something to me.
My grandmother shamed to silence.
My grandmother
facing the terrible scaffold of words.
My grandmother

behind a door that slowly closes.

I am trying to remember
something important
about those days.
All I see is a kitchen.
All I see is my grandmother
radiating secret, unknown meanings.

Anna Akhmatova sings in her old woman’s voice
about what she has seen.

My grandmother carried off
on a storm of lost struggles
into these words
that I never learned to listen;
I let myself be torn away by the winds

and together we watched as all the roads were destroyed.

I am coming
for now I hear your fighting call.

* I didn’t know you when you were in your full glory,
I only saw your fiery ascent
– Anna Akhmatova 1940, transl. Jenny Wade

Mirkka Jokelainen is a Finnish poet living and working in London. Her grandmother was an Ingrian Finn who was evacuated from St Petersburg to Finland during WWII. Mirkka’s work has previously featured in South Bank Poetry and been longlisted in the National Poetry Competition and for the Troubadour prize.