"Winter," by Bella Akhmadulina

This same poet wrote one of my favorite autumn poems, which I have posted here twice before. I discovered this poem just a few weeks ago, and it continues to hold me in thrall.

Winter became my season during my years in the Chicago area — the sensory sparseness and the deep cold lent themselves perfectly somehow to the different moods and struggles of each year, and my memories of what was so striking to see, feel, and hear hold the emotional memories tightly. I mostly look forward to it now as a time to turn inward, read closely, turn big ideas over and let my thoughts steep without hurry. This coming winter will also bring the time to celebrate a year spent with my love.

The feeling of these memories has accumulated, though; I feel them lying layered and translucent against each other. And I read and love this poem because of how well it evokes (and invokes) some of my winter selves.


Winter's gesture to me is
chilly and persistent.
Winter has something
mildly medicinal.

Why else does
my unsuspecting sickness
stretch its hands toward it suddenly
out of darkness and pain?

My love,
practice witchcraft.
Let your icy ringlet's tonic kiss
brush my forehead.

The temptation continually grows
to meet deception with belief,
to look dogs in the eye,
to press myself against trees,

to forgive — playfully —
to run and turn,
and when done,
forgive again.

To equal the winter afternoon's
empty oval,
its nuances,
and always be aware of it.

To reduce my self to nothing,
so from behind the wall I can shout
not to my shadow, but to the light
not blocked by me.

– Bella Akhmadulina
trans. Mary Maddock


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