It had to be during the middle school years. I was sitting in a state proctored test-you know, the kind where you get a stapled booklet, a bubble sheet, a number 2 pencil, a flimsy plastic ruler (like I need that for a language arts test), and a few sheets of scratch paper. I don’t remember much about the tests besides they let you get out of class a whole day to take them and you had to pass them at the end of the year. They were never very eventful-the passages easy, the main idea, tone, responding to prompts-not eventful. Until I got a passage by Anna Akhmatova.
You thought I was that type:
That you could forget me,
And that I’d plead and weep
And throw myself under the hooves of a bay mare,
Or that I’d ask the sorcerers
For some magic potion made from roots and send you a terrible gift:
My precious perfumed handkerchief.
Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.
And I swear to you by the garden of the angels,
I swear by the miracle-working icon,
And by the fire and smoke of our nights:
I will never come back to you.
There must have been something brewing in the young me. I was smitten. I quickly scratched the poem onto my blank paper and folded it up small so that I could savor it when I got home. I kept that scrap of paper for years. I’d read it, it made me feel stormy…I loved it and still do.
I had not thought about Anna Akhmatova for years until I came across a book of her poetry in a used bookshop. The name was familiar but I didn’t know why. I thought hard but couldn’t place her so I put the book back on the shelf. The next day I remembered and went back to the shop to search for my stormy poem. It wasn’t even in there but I took the book home.