His massive shadow thrown against the mountain,
God’s bright messenger beckoned
them climb higher. If only for a second,
she whispered to herself, look back and count

the sunset towers of your Sodom,
the square in which you sang, the loom
and stool through the window of the room
where your husband ate his garden

greens and children slept beneath your cover. Clear salt
tears nearly sealed her eyes. And she, so moved,
refused to move, bound unto this place she loved
while bound toward another. Halting

there, she glanced behind. Whose tears replenish
hers whose backward gaze would root her
halfway up a mountain between the past and future,
arms full of the nothing she could not relinquish?

after Akhmatova
first published in The Fortnightly Review