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After Akhmatova

Night after night. Night
After night I lay there in the room
Where once on a folding table
We ate oysters off a bed of bladderwrack
On a tin platter. Now the room is bare –
Not even the tattered remains of curtains
To stretch with one trembling hand across
My bareness. This pain, the pain of waiting
In vain, of lying here stinking under
Bald fur coats, without perfume, or silk
Or lipstick. Distilled woman. Gutted
Like the last day’s catch and splayed on the bed.
Roaring like a teeming beast. I do not know this voice
It comes from some bloody abyss within,
Frightens me as much as the other waiting women.
Who would want this much? Not you
Whose departing back gleamed with buttons.
But once, when I shoved a hand in to an unyielding sleeve
And tugged, the white roses came tumbling one after the other,
Rose after rose, rose after rose, and you turned on me and said,
You must never go.

Sasha Dugdale

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