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Everything

I was recently in conversation with a friend and we were both feeling depressed and angry over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Then I remembered a poem by a Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, entitled ‘Everything’ and I read it to him. It moved us both deeply. Here it is: 

“Everything has been plundered, betrayed, sold out, 

The wing of black death has flashed, 

Everything has been devoured by starving anguish. 

Why, then, is it so bright? 

The fantastic woods near the town 

Wafts the scent of cherry blossoms by day, 

At night new constellations shine 

In the transparent depths of the skies of July 

And how near the miraculous draws 

To the dirty, tumbledown huts… 

No one, no one knows what it is, 

But for centuries we have longed for it. “

3 Comments

  1. Mike Catling

    It’s so hard to smile when you see the pictures and read the stoties of lives being destroyed. The Loving Presence of God seems as distant as the constellations. The smell of burning smothers the ‘cherry blossom’ scent. The cry of the psalmist rises above the noise of artillery and exploding bombs, ‘How long O Lord, how long?’ I sometimes think that Jewish rather than Christian faith is better able to bear the pain, to carry the grief and be more honest with God about the sense of absence rather than presence. The Jewish Kaddish brings consolation in such times as now being experienced by Ukranians and so many other refugees across this planet. None of us can wash our hands like Pilate and say we are not implicated in the atrocities of other people’s suffering.

    • Karen

      Thank you for this Mike, you have prompted me to revist the Psalms, often missed in modern worship. The sense of absence seems to be caused by the pain we feel for others and ourselves, a temporary blindness to a presence that is always there. The last lines of Psalm 13 reminds me to believe and sing again. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
      I found a Jewish Kaddish prayer that ends “May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say Amen.” As I see the incredulous images of suffering in Ukraine, the noise of guns and bombs are drowned by my tears and the love in my heart can be shared with all who suffer, in prayer, by Our Father.

  2. Tim

    Thank you for sharing the poem Henry. That was so helpful for me.

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