(b. 1931)


  Ruth Fainlight was born in New York City, and has lived mostly in England since the age of 15. Her father was born in London, and her mother in a small town on the eastern borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Ukraine). She was educated at schools in America and England, and at Birmingham and Brighton colleges of art, and married the writer Alan Sillitoe in 1959. She was Poet in Residence at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1985 and 1990, and received a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry in 1994. Ruth Fainlight lives in London.  
Ruth Fainlight

Her many books include poetry, short stories, translations, drama and opera libretti. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, and her stories in books including The Penguin Book of Modern Women’s Stories (1991) and Caught in a Story: contemporary fairy-tales and fables (Vintage, 1992).

Her poetry books include Cages (1966) and To See the Matter Clearly (1968), from MacMillan in Britain and Dufour in the USA; The Region’s Violence (1973), Another Full Moon (1976), Sibyls and Others (1980), Fifteen to Infinity (1983), Selected Poems (1987) and The Knot (1990), all from Hutchinson and Century Hutchinson; This Time of Year (1994) and Selected Poems (1995) from Sinclair-Stevenson; and Climates (1983), Sugar-Paper Blue (1997) and Burning Wire (2002) from Bloodaxe Books. Fifteen to Infinity was published in the USA by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Sugar-Paper Blue was listed for the Whitbread Poetry Award.

She has also translated two books of poetry from the Portuguese of Sophia de Mello Breyner, and collaborated with Alan Sillitoe on a translation of Lope de Vega’s play All Citizens Are Soldiers (Macmillan, 1969). Her own poetry has been published in Portuguese (1995), French (1997) and Spanish (2000) editions.

She has published two collections of short stories, Daylife and Nightlife (André Deutsch, 1971) and Dr. Clock’s Last Case (Virago, 1994). Her libretti include: The Dancer Hotoke (1991), a chamber opera by Erika Fox (nominated for the Laurence Olivier Awards in 1992); The European Story (1993), a chamber opera for Geoffrey Alvarez; and Bedlam Britannica (1995), a Channel Four War Cries TV opera directed by Celia Lowenstein with music by Robert Jan Stips.


(from the book Burning Wire)

Portugal: Visitação, de Ruth Fainlight, Tradução colectiva (Mateus, Abril-Maio 1994), revista, completada e apresentada por Ana Hatherly, Livros Quetzal, ISBN: 9725642279, 1995, 54 pág.




Biographies:         O        O        O        O   

Articles:            O        O        O        O

Articles by Ruth Fainlight:    on Paul Bowles

                                             on Sylvia Plath

Poems:                     8 poems:

A Short History of Ladbroke Square
Early Spring
An Encounter near Ladbroke Square
A Day at the Races
Late Winter
In Ladbroke Square


Lisbon Faces


The cats on the azulejos

on the Fronteira palace,

the putti, birds and satyrs –

cobalt blue and manganese

black, with yellow eyes,


the fishermen and monks, Jews

and courtiers, the royal pair

with ornate rich-toned robes,

honouring São Vicente

in Nuno Gonçalves’ painting,


have a subtle resemblance – that

shrewd, mournful, watchful expression –

to people I passed in Alfama

this morning: they all share

the same Lisbon face.


 from Burning Wire                





Young Men


Young men disturb me as they never used to –

a sharply physical disturbance, with full

awareness that stiff joints and slack flesh

no longer could perform what I imagine;

mind and body

                                   moving further apart.


I feel a tenderness and sympathy

for old body, that poor donkey, most

burdens too heavy now, though once little

seemed beyond it; ruefully acknowledge

how only rage and lust

                                   augment with time.


Whether mind becomes more tolerant

to repetition of the same absurdities,

nothing learned, is a moot point.

But those young men – ought I to want

the day ever to come

                                   when they don’t disturb?


from Sugar-Paper Blue                  






The Tree Surgeon

Pressing against the trunk, he twists around
and back to test the resilience of the branch,
the rope, the safety of his position,
then crawls along a bough – a primate
in his habitat. When he stops to rest and
contemplate the distracting criss-cross of last
season's twigs, plot his next move and where
to cut yet not harm the tree's structure,
he becomes a modern human.

Next spring it will start again. By autumn,
when this year's leaves have fallen, the space
he's cleared will be filigreed with new growth.
The pressure of a tool on his palm, the timeless
repetitions of toil, seem part of the same
process – something more important than
an individual life. He's caring for trees,
not carving a sculpture that will immortalize
him; would never conceive such ambitions.

At ground level, two men, helmetted,
their ears muffled against the sound, feed
fallen branches through the mouth of a hopper
that spits the shredded stuff into the open back
of a truck. The tree surgeon, gracefully
stretching toward the tip of the tallest branch,
is only not an artist because he knows
that what he does could be done as well –
or maybe even better – by someone else.

Pressing against the trunk, he twists around
and back to test the resilience of the branch,
the rope, the safety of his position,
then crawls along a bough – a primate
in his habitat. When he stops to rest and
contemplate the distracting criss-cross of last
season's twigs, plot his next move and where
to cut yet not harm the tree's structure,
he becomes a modern human.

Next spring it will start again. By autumn,
when this year's leaves have fallen, the space
he's cleared will be filigreed with new growth.
The pressure of a tool on his palm, the timeless
repetitions of toil, seem part of the same
process – something more important than
an individual life. He's caring for trees,
not carving a sculpture that will immortalize
him; would never conceive such ambitions.

At ground level, two men, helmetted,
their ears muffled against the sound, feed
fallen branches through the mouth of a hopper
that spits the shredded stuff into the open back
of a truck. The tree surgeon, gracefully
stretching toward the tip of the tallest branch,
is only not an artist because he knows
that what he does could be done as well –
or maybe even better – by someone else.

from Burning Wire                        




Ancient Egyptian Couples

Ancient Egyptian couples
standing or seated side by side.
Plaited wigs and pleated robes
breastplates and bracelets patterned
with lotus and papyrus buds
in wood, stone, plaster,
meticulously worked and incised.

Signifying separate realms,
his skin is painted
earth red, hers gleams soft
and golden as the sky.

Sometimes, the wife has placed a hand
upon her husband's shoulder.
They stare at us, not at each other,
from enormous kohl-rimmed eyes.

That surge of affection
across millennia, like
the sudden return of desire
which haloes the head, the whole
body, of the one confirmed
again as beloved, brings them
close as you and I.

from Sugar-Paper Blue                  







My mother's old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother's handbag: mints
and lipstick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
of leather and powder, which ever
since then has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war.

from Fifteen to Infinity, 1983                




A velha carteira de cabedal da minha mãe

atulhada das cartas que andaram

com ela durante a guerra. O cheiro

da carteira da minha mãe: mentol

e bâton e pó de arroz Coty.

O aspecto dessas cartas, amolecidas

e gastas no cantos, tantas vezes

abertas, lidas e dobradas.

Cartas do meu pai. Um cheiro

a cabedal e pó de arroz, que

desde então quer dizer mulher,

amor, sofrimento e guerra.


De "Visitação"



Four Pheasants

Where the road curves sharp left, it dips,
and after heavy rain, a glisten of wet —
what might be the bed of an old stream or
an overflowing spring — marks the surface.
The water sinks into the dark earth
deepened by centuries of rotting leaves
and decomposing creatures, and the trees arch.
Their top branches meet above the gap.

When the leaves are russet and gold, the wet road,
fiftully lit by weak sunlight filtered through
interlaced twigs, seems to lead somewhere important.
From a bank of bronze and copper bracken,
dew-beaded, frost-softened, four pheasants
emerge, one behind the next, and stalk across.

from Burning Wire                





Sunday Afternoon


A Sunday afternoon in late July:

the leaves look tired, the sky is clouding up,

pressure falling. The couple

in the next apartment are arguing

about how much he does or doesn't help.

Eavesdropping from my terrace,

I am jealous of how it's bound to end:

the stuffy bedroom, moans and love-cries muffled

so the baby won't wake.

I remember every detail of

the misery there is in marriage - and then making up.


from Burning Wire                





Her eyes are staring inward
into a space as endless
as the distance from here to the mountains

she has forgotten. Between
those peaks and this high cave
lies the drowned valley floor where it happened:

whatever gave her the look
of a violated woman
or a bird that clings to a storm-struck mast

and made everything fade--
like being formed from clay and breathed
into life.
Or a god's visitation

from This Time of Year             





December Moon



Like the web of a leaf - fine as the mesh
of a moth's crest or a filigreed
blade of coral - that I'd stoop to peel
from the damp pavement and carry home
(another object for my collection)
in spite of Mother's protestations



like a scrap of lace on the blue carpet
of her cool bedroom, that lay unnoticed
since I cut and hemmed a veil for my doll
from a torn scarf (or perhaps to knot
around my neck for dressing-up)



like the wrinkled skin my mother would scrape
so carefully with a little spoon
from the top of my cup of boiled milk
(which unless she did I wouldn't drink)



and watch her drop it onto that plate -
my favourite - with a painted line
around the rim like autumn trees
against a sky (it's not that long
since the leaves fell) of the same



rare December blue as the morning sky
I see today here when I draw
the curtains apart, and this pale moon,
half consumed by the last month
of another year, floats into view.


 from Burning Wire                



Ephemeral Lives


This year seems an interlude
between two events, though I don't yet know
what those events are. The first
must already have happened (at the time
I didn't notice), but until the second,
whenever it comes, the future stays obscure.


A week now is as short as a day,
a month no longer than a week used to be.
The only way to stop acceleration
(this hopeful theory still needs testing)
would be to concentrate my attention
on the smallest details of a fly, a mouse,
a flower. Compared to such ephemeral lives,
my own will proceed with glacial slowness.

 from Burning Wire                


Agua de Colónia



The sharp smell of cheap eau-de-cologne,

agua de colonia, will call it back:

every aspect of the lonely summer

in that other era, when I was young.


Watered pavements of narrow streets between

old buildings. Dim high-ceilinged cafés blue

with smoke from yellow-papered cigarettes.

The almost neutral taste of almond horchata

in tall glass beaded with moisture. I pressed

my wrists against its sides to cool my blood.


Molten sunlight through the shutter slats

corrodes the floor-tiles’ lozenges and arabesques.

Insomnia under a mosquito net.

My scent. My languor. My formal clothing.


 from Sugar-Paper Blue          



O cheiro forte de eau-de-cologne barata
(agua de colónia)*, há-de recordá-lo:
cada aspecto do solitário verão
nessa outra época, quando eu era jovem.

Calçadas regadas de ruas estreitas entre
velhos edifícios. Cafés sombrios de tectos altos, azulados
com o fumo dos cigarros de mortalha amarela.
O gosto quase neutro de orchata de amêndoa
num copo alto embaciado. Pressionei
nele os pulsos para arrefecer o meu sangue.

A luz solar difundida através das ripas das persianas
corrói os losangos e arabescos dos ladrilhos do chão.
A insónia sob a rede de um mosquiteiro.
O meu odor. A minha languidez. O meu vestuário formal.

* sic, no original

.................more poems, here

  The poem "Sugar-Paper Blue" was translated into Russian by Marina Boroditskaya (Марина Бородицкая), poet and translator, and was published in the April 2003 issue of the Moscow monthly Inostrannaya Literatura (Foreign Literature). It was found here.
Marina Boroditskaya - photo from http://www.mhpi.ru/institute/salon/borodizkaya







Trying to describe a colour

by comparison and metaphor

is as futile as the attempt

to hum the tune I hear in my head.

But I thought everyone knew

what was meant by sugar-paper blue.


Sugar-paper – that thickish, stiffish

somewhat-grainy-surfaced, mottled

faded-navy paper glued or folded

into bags for sugar: the next image

is my aunt and mother stocky-fingered

in the family grocery store.


After school, pushing a metal scoop

through the shifting granular dampness

inside a hairy sack of jute,

they’ll find bags, then to their homework.

            You understand, there is no proof

            this actually occurred.


I was trying to describe a room in Leningrad (in ‘65

still the city’s name), walls painted

the traditional nineteenth-century tone

I called sugar-paper blue,

to a friend in New York, years later.





It was the study of my guide’s parents,

two polite Petersborgians

who had survived the siege,

their daughters said, with bodies gaunt

and eyes enormous as Rublev saints

on icons at the Hermitage (“That’s 

how we all looked”), and now, proudly,

showed books, albums, pamphlets

guarded through terrible years.


I turned the pages of thick or flimsy paper,

thought of those writers and artists

gone to the gulags or Paris, and knew

that I was touching holy relics.


“Here’s Mandelstam’s first published verse,” Galya

translated. “These woodcuts are by Goncharova.

And look: Blok. Bely. Gumilev.”

“The Acmeist who married Akhmatova?”

(I was such a show-off). “Yes,” they confirmed.

“And this is the book with the cycle of poems

dedicated to her by Marina Tsvetaeva”

            - who titled them The Muse, and later said:

            “I read as if Akhmatova

            were the only person in the room.

            I read for the absent Akhmatova”,

            - who didn’t hear them, but carried the manuscript

            in her handbag for years, until

            it split at the folds and fell apart.





I was probably not more than twelve then,

in my aunt’s glass-fronted mahogany bookcase –

            dusting its elaborated clawed feet,

            the swagged garlands of leaves swathing

            the hips of the female torsos

            that surged from the column each side

            like naked caryatidis, or

            twin figureheads with the fixed eyes

            and stern faces of implacable Fates

            on the vessel of expectation

            which that bookcase (the same piece now

            in my London apartment; the one object

            whose look and contents, I suspect,

            formed my taste in everything) became –

I found what can only be called

“a slim volume”, with limp covers,

in an unknown script and language.


I don’t remember Aunt Ann translating

one line from its pages, nor ever

explaining how she came to own it.

But she told me some facts about the woman

who wrote it – the first time I heard

those words: Anna Akhmatova –

            later, I wondered how important

            the coincidence of name might be for her,

            my aunt, who since the sugar-bagging days

            saw herself an artist-manqué;





“You are and admirer of Akhmatova?”

It was a loaded question, then.

Faces gleaming white against the dark

blue walls and shelves of books

as marble busts in a library,

all three watched me closely.


“You know I don’t read Russian. But

there are a few translations – “

I couldn’t go on. I felt ridiculous.

“She’s ill now,” Galya said,

“but still in touch with everything.

And what a good neighbour”.


A neighbour? Hard to imagine her

in such a mundane situation.

Like the taut silk of a parachute

collapsing inward, billowed out,

by contrary winds, the barriers

of time and space changed shape and meaning.


“Do you hear that sound?” My gaze followed

Galya’s to the ceiling. “She must be

better today, she’s walking around”.

“Anna Akhmatova lives upstairs?”

My awestruck, disbelieving voice

creaked like the floorboards.





Incredulous questions:

as if needing to hear the simple fact

reiterated yet again;

pleading that somehow they help me

to meet the famous poet,

the witness,

the sacred monster,

the old, dying woman –

                                   or at least

            help me to see her –

            even if only over the shoulder

            of one of them – who could knock

            at her door and let me look

            even if only a moment –

            just to see her – a glimpse –

            Anna Akhmatova:

                                   my obsessed

demand exceeded decent behaviour.

But they firmly insisted, repeating,

as many times as I asked, that what

I wanted could not happen.





I have scanned encyclopaedias

and dictionaries, read every entry

under “sugar” and “paper” and “blue”:

endless, tedious searchings. But no one

acknowledges the relevance

of those qualifiers, or recognises

the description, though I see it

so clearly: a glaucous sheen

ob the cheap, thick sheets of paper.

            Mandelstam – I hadn’t read him

            then – might have written

            of sugar cones from North Africa,

            but eating blue grapes

            under “the burning blue sky”

            os Tashkent, did Akhmatova notice

            one wrapped in blue paper?


(As for “papier bleu”, in White Flock

I found it: “the blue copy-book

with the poems I wrote as a child”.)


There are other more poetic blues:

azure, cerulean, lapis lazuli,

ultramarine, cornflower, indigo;

(the colour of rivers and ocean,

the shadows on ice and snow).

But my imagination

stubbornly returns

to my aunt and mother,

Feigele and Channah – Fanny and Annie –

unhappily filling packets of sugar

(while sucking the crystal residue).

            It’s not as if they came from Russia.

            Somewhere near Bukovina

            was where they were born.


It is impossible to say:

standing side by side in the damp room

behind the store – like sisters

in a Dostoievsky novel –

their chilblained hands and feet

burned as blue with cold

as Anna Akhmatova’s

heart, mind, soul, body,


or allude to the janitor’s blue cap,

or the blue lips

of the woman who whispered,

“Can you describe this?”

as she stood in line

three hundred hours

With the other mothers, wives and sisters

outside Kresty prison.

Is it shameful or shameless

that I can’t disentangle the stories?

            How they all must have yearned

            for something to sweeten their mouths,

            or had they forgotten

            even the taste of sugar?





Poetry, maternal figure. Sugar syrup, blue paper.


The Muse: a veiled girl with pipes in her hand.

Cassandra: “…my rods prophesied those graves”.


            sugar syrup, blue paper


Not quite a harlot, burning with passion;

not quite a nun, who can pray for forgiveness.”


            sugar syrup, blue paper


Orthodox Russian village women pilgrims.

Michal, Rachel, all the daughters of Israel.


            sugar syrup, blue paper


They are very nice when they are courting”.

The face of a child with divorced parents.


            sugar syrup, blue paper


“Hiding her heart” from her husband,

drinking to “loneliness spent together”.


            sugar syrup, blue paper


Everyone looks through a foreign window.

One in Tashkent, another in New York.”



            Maternal figure.

            Sugar syrup.

            Blue paper.





I wanted to see her.

I wanted to be initiated.

Like a hungry animal

wanting to push its muzzle

into the sticky, blue-sugar secrets

of suffering and poetry,

to lick the gritty essence of love

from the palms of her hand:

such were my ignorant, urgent demands.


The vibration of footsteps,

the sense of a body’s bulk and weight

displacing space, the mystery

existing, alive and breathing

above my head, were maddening.


            There was then – my first trip to Russia –

            after letting me talk, and spin a rope

            of hopeless platitudes more than

            long enough to hang myself,

            a stranger said: “If you ever come back,

            then I’ll tell you how really is”.


            Glad to join our party – the table already

            covered with half-empty bottles and glasses –

            he then revealed he’d last seen his father

            in the witness box at the Doctors’ Plot trial.

            Unsure if there would be a next visit,

            his wife murmured, “Murdered”, in my ear.


Remembering this, I had the childish wish

to take the misery of the century

compact it to a small black stone

with the density of a neutron star –

hundreds of million tons per cubic inch –

wrap it up in blue sugar-paper

then cast it into the core of a black hole

from which nothing can ever escape

from which the signals would come

dimmer and redder and fainter

until they stopped forever…





What I wanted would not happen. What

I wanted made the rest of my visit awkward.

Quite soon, Galya and I

were saying goodbye to her parents –

and that beautiful blue-papered study –

and walking down the stairs.

            The same stairs, etc. etc.

            All the obvious thoughts.


I stopped to look up at the grey façade

(a handsome building, as I recall) and,

thinking I was very cunning, casually asked,

“Which window is yours?” Half-reluctant,

half-amused, she gave the answer I hoped for.


There was a time,

in the forties, after the war,

when guards were posted

in the street outside her house,

and Anna Akhmatova

was obliged to appear,

morning and evening, at her window,

to confirm that she had not escaped

or killed herself.

                                   Thought I stood

for a long time next day

on the opposite pavement

and stared at the window

hoping to see, behind

the spun-sugar lace of the curtain,

the pale blur of a face

which might be hers,

no one was there.




NOTES by the Author, to section VII:


“a veiled girl…” As in Akhmatova’s poem, The Muse.


“Cassandra” So Mandelstam had called Anna Akhmatova. In that “persona”, she wrote: “Oh grief/ my words prophesied those graves”.


“Not quite a harlot, etc.” From the critical essay about Akhmatova’s work by G.L.Lelevich (1923).


“Michal, Rachel, all the daughters…” In the early 1920s, Akhmatova wrote about Old Testament heroines. She had already used the figure of the Orthodox village woman as a symbol of Russia, and of staunchness, etc.


“They are very nice… “, “Hiding her heart”, “loneliness spent together” Quoted from poems relating to Akhmatova’s relationship with Nikolay Punin.


“child with divorced parents” Reference to Anna Akhmatova’s son Lyova (Lev Nokolaevich Gumilev), her only child (by her first husband, the poet Nikolay Gumilev).


Everyone looks through a foreign window…” Quoted from Akhmatova’s Poem without a Hero (1940-1962).


Цвет сахарной бумаги

Поэма. Перевод с английского М. Бородицкой


Пытаться объяснить словами цвет -
такое же бесплодное занятье,
как песенку, что в голове засела,
вслух напевать. И все же я пыталась:
"Такой шероховатый, блекло-синий,
цвет сахарной бумаги".
Та бумага
была довольно плотной, чуть шершавой
на ощупь, в мелких крапинках, разводах:
вот из нее-то клеились пакеты
под сахар. Тут я вижу мать и тетку,
со слипшимися пальцами, вдвоем
в семейной лавке бакалейной:
придя из школы, руку с черпаком
в мешок лохматый джутовый по локоть
совали, в отсыревшую сыпучесть,
и лишь наполнив сахарным песком
пакеты, ѕ принимались за уроки.
Возможно, я все это сочинила.
Я комнату пыталась описать
в квартире ленинградской, где была я
в году шестьдесят пятом и где стены
хранили с девятнадцатого века
такую точно краску, ѕ описать
подруге из Нью-Йорка, в девяностых.
Это был кабинет в квартире
родителей моей переводчицы,
безупречно воспитанных петербуржцев,
переживших блокаду.
("О, тогда, - усмехнулась дочь, - мы все походили
на рублевских святых из музея:
изможденные, с ввалившимися глазами!")
А теперь мне демонстрировали альбомы и книги,
сбереженные ими в те страшные годы.
Я листала плотные и тоненькие страницы,
представляла себе художников и поэтов,
растворившихся в ГУЛАГе или в Париже, - и понимала,
что прикладываюсь к мощам.
- Это первое издание Мандельштама, -
переводила Галя, - с гравюрами Гончаровой.
Вот, взгляните: Блок, и Белый, и Гумилев.
- Муж Ахматовой, акмеист? (мне так хотелось блеснуть!)
- Да… а это вот книжка Марины
Цветаевой, с циклом стихов,
посвященных Ахматовой. Он называется "Муза".
"Я читала, - скажет Марина потом, -
для одной лишь Ахматовой, словно мы с ней вдвоем
были в комнате. Для отсутствующей - читала".
Не слыхавшая чтения Анна
Ахматова после носила рукопись в сумке,
много лет носила ее с собою, пока
она не распалась, протершись на сгибах.
Мне, наверное, было лет двенадцать, когда
в застекленном тетином книжном шкафу,
протирая от пыли его звериные лапы
и гирлянды листьев из красного дерева,
что обвивали бедра
двух женских фигур, выраставших из двух колонн -
обнаженных кариатид, а может, суровых мойр
с неподвижными взорами, двух скульптурных двойняшек
на носу корабля надежды, -
в этом шкафу
(он теперь стоит у меня в квартире, в Лондоне,
предмет обстановки,
чья форма и содержимое, подозреваю,
определили мой вкус навсегда и во всем)
я наткнулась на тонкую книжечку в мягкой обложке,
на чужом языке - даже буквы были чужие.
Я не помню, чтоб тетя Анни хотя бы строку
перевела мне оттуда или хоть объяснила,
как эта странная книжка попала к ней в руки.
Лишь немногое рассказала она о той
женщине, что ее написала, ѕ 
я тогда впервые услышала эти два слова:
Анна Ахматова.
Позже я спрашивала себя, какое значенье
имело для тети моей совпаденье имен, 
для тети Анни, которая с тех бакалейных,
сахарных дней
считала себя неудавшейся артисткой.
- Вы любите Ахматову? - вопрос,
в те годы полный скрытого значенья.
Их лица, обращенные ко мне,
светились, белые на синем фоне,
как мрамор в сумраке библиотек.
Все трое ждали моего ответа.
- Ну, я по-русски не читаю, но -
есть переводы… - Тут я замолчала.
Мне было стыдно. Галя поглядела
куда-то вверх. - Она сейчас больна,
но держится, и в курсе всех событий,
и вообще - прекрасная соседка.
Соседка? Что за будничное слово!
Как будто шелк тугого парашюта
вогнулся вдруг, оборотившись ямой,
и тут же вздулся вновь под мощным ветром:
так искривились, изменяя смысл,
границы времени и ткань пространства.
- Вот, слышите? - Я подняла глаза,
за Галей, к потолку. - Сегодня ей
получше: встала, ходит по квартире.
- Ахматова? Она живет над вами? -
мой голос, севший вмиг от потрясенья,
скрипел, как половицы наверху.
Я задавала вопросы,
не в силах поверить,
снова и снова требовала подтвержденья,
я умоляла помочь мне встретиться с ней:
со знаменитым поэтом,
с очевидицей,
со священным монстром,
с умирающей старой женщиной,
или хотя бы
разрешить мне взглянуть на нее
из-за чужого плеча:
ведь они могли
постучаться в дверь
и дать мне хоть краем глаза,
хоть на миг увидеть
Анну Ахматову...
я перешла
все границы приличий. Но каждый раз
мне в ответ повторяли:
то, о чем я прошу -
невозможно, никак невозможно.
Я копалась в энциклопедиях и словарях,
терпеливо читала
все, что было на слово сахар,
и бумага, и синий цвет.
Но никто и нигде не связал
эти близкие вещи, никто по моим описаньям
не признал этот цвет, который я вижу так ясно:
тусклый глянец хрустящих листов
дешевой толстой бумаги.
Мандельштам - я прочла его позже -
написал про мраморный сахар.
А в Ташкенте, "средь неба
жгуче-голубого", где ели
сизый дымчатый виноград,
не попался ль Ахматовой - остроконечный,
я их видела в Северной Африке -
сахарный синий кулек?
(А еще я нашла в "Белой стае":
"Вот эта синяя тетрадь -
С моими детскими стихами".)
Бывают оттенки синего куда поэтичней:
бирюзовый, небесный, ляпис-лазурь,
ультрамарин, васильковый, индиго,
цвет морской и речной волны,
голубая тень на снегу.
Но упрямое воображение
рисует мне мать и тетку -
Фейгеле и Ханну, Фанни и Анни -
печально пересыпающих сахар в пакеты,
машинально слизывающих с пальцев
приставшие к ним кристаллы.
Они и родом-то были
даже не из России -
откуда-то с Буковины.
Но неужели нельзя
глядя на них, стоящих бок о бок
в промозглой кладовке, как сестры в романе
у Достоевского, на худые руки и ноги,
замерзшие до синевы, ѕ 
вспомнить об Анне Ахматовой:
как она мерзла
телом, душою, нутром?
И как тут не вспомнить
синюю шапку в дверях
и бледного управдома,
и голубые губы
женщины, что спросила:
"А это вы можете описать?" -
в тесной цепочке жен, матерей, сестер,
в очереди у Крестов,
там, где она стояла триста часов.
Нужно ли мне стыдиться, что я никак
не расплету две спутавшиеся нити?
Им, должно быть, страшно хотелось
чего-нибудь сладкого.
А может, они и вкус обычного сахара
успели забыть?
Поэзия: родство и материнство.
Бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп.
Быть Музой: с дудочкой, под покрывалом,
Кассандрой: милым гибель накликать,
бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп
"не то блудницей с бурными страстями
не то монахиней, что молит о прощенье",
бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп
крестьянкой, что бредет на богомолье,
Рахилью из долины Бытия,
бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп
"Но где мой дом и где рассудок мой?"
ребенком, чьи родители в разводе,
бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп
и тою что, от мужа скрывши сердце,
пила "за одиночество вдвоем".
бумажный шорох, сахарный сироп
"Все в чужое глядят окно,
кто в Ташкенте, а кто в Нью-Йорке".
Родство и материнство.
Бумажный шорох.
Сахарный сироп.
Я хотела ее увидеть.
Пройти обряд посвящения.
Как голодный зверь,
ткнуться мордой в сыпучие, сладкие тайны
страдания и мастерства,
слизнуть у нее с ладони
шероховатые крупинки любви.
Охваченная нетерпеньем,
я ничего не желала знать.
Звук шагов наверху, тяжесть тела,
расталкивающего пространство, -
живая загадка,
дыша и ворочаясь над головой,
сводила меня с ума.
В мой самый первый приезд в Россию, послушав,
как я изливаю потоки возвышенной чуши
и бесславно иду ко дну,
запоздавший гость, которого мне не назвали,
пообещал: "Если вы приедете снова,
я расскажу вам, как все было на самом деле".
И благодарно примкнув к застолью -
а бутылки уже опустели наполовину, ѕ
он добавил, что в последний раз своего отца
видел в зале суда, свидетелем на процессе врачей.
Его жена, сомневаясь, что я приеду снова,
пояснила мне на ухо: "Его убили".
Вспомнив тот случай, я ощутила детскую жажду
сгрести в кучу всю боль уходящего века,
сгустить ее в один черный камешек,
плотностью равный нейтронной звезде -
тысяча миллионов тонн на кубический дюйм, ѕ
и, завернув его в синюю сахарную бумагу,
бросить в самую сердцевину черной дыры,
из которой нет возврата,
из которой будут еще долетать сигналы,
тусклые, красные, все слабей и слабее,
и пропадут навсегда…
Мое желание
не могло сбыться. Недостижимость
обернулась неловкостью, и скоро мы с Галей,
распрощавшись с ее родителями и чудесным
кабинетом цвета синей бумаги,
уже спускались по лестнице.
По той самой,
по которой… и т. д. и т. п.
Обернувшись на серый фасад
довольно красивого здания,
я, гордая собственной хитростью, небрежно спросила:
- А где тут ваше окно? 
Покачав головой
и усмехнувшись, она показала.
В сороковые годы,
после войны,
напротив ее подъезда
топтались особые люди,
и Анна Ахматова
должна была подходить к окну
утром и вечером, давая им знать,
что она не сбежала и не совершила
Я заступила на пост
прямо с утра и долго стояла
напротив дома,
надеясь узреть в окне,
за сахарным кружевом занавески,
расплывчатое пятно,
которое могло оказаться
бледным женским лицом,
но там никого не было.