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Daytime Begins with a Line by Anna Akhmatova
The round, hanging lanterns, lit faces in a window of the Marble Palace Catherine the Great built for a lover, with the Field of Mars below, snow falling inside two minds. One translated Babylonian folktales so the other could stand in line early morning for bread at the House of Scholars. A touch of dawn was again nightfall, their room furnished with scattered papers, rare books, a couch with springs poking out, a bookcase, a floral pitcher, a china cabinet, a naked light bulb dangling over a table. Did the two poets learn it took more to sing & reflect the burning icy stars of poetry where privilege & squalor lived beneath the same ornate ceiling? Did they tiptoe from the wintery dusk of the servants’ wing, follow the pseudo- Gothic stairs up to the forbidden aromas of Turkish tobacco, sugar, & exotic teas? Sometimes, they kept themselves warm with talk of the empress’s love of horses as they galloped another century. Then, sketches of their time at the Stray Dog lit the air around those neoclassic nights, & maybe they also spoke about “Venice rotting with gold” near the Arctic Circle, & anger almost kept them warm on days they bent over pages of snow-blindness where tears brought them to laughter.
Poet Yusef Komunyakaa first received wide recognition following the 1984 publication of Copacetic, a collection of poems built from colloquial speech which demonstrated his incorporation of jazz influences.