Construction Literary Magazine

June 2019

Akhmatova for Our Times

Akhmatova for Our Times
Photograph via Flickr by dr_tr


“I wish you knew what garbage sprouts poems,”
she wrote, “And grows them without an ounce of shame,
Like yellow dandelions by a fence,
like burdocks, weeds.”

Google Translate thinks it is, “Wherefrom what litter
verse grows, would you know, shame knowing not?
Like a dandelion at the wall, like mugs and quinoa.”

Poor neural network mistook deeply violet burdocks
for mugs. Less mysteriously, purslane metastasized
into quinoa. Shame remained goddamn fucking shame.

This Akhmatovaish is a recipe, its ingredients staples
available in every home today: mugs, quinoa; shame.
Combine, cry, and bake in your phone. You and I

already burn in it, after all, homunculi rage-crisped
from the latest attack on our sisters and brothers,
on the statements of their skin, or accent, or sex.

You’ll get no dandelions at the end—perhaps a few
more gobs of shame. Perhaps it’s not a recipe, and means
just that you can plant quinoa in a mug. O cook, o poet,

Google it. Says right here: you can make it grow.