In ancient Rome, they say, there was a belief that intimate/ urgent/ special prayers had to be spoken aloud, a mandatory act for the prayers to be answered.
A mandatory act? Yes! I say, if not spoken aloud, how will a prayer then cross the ocean of voices and climb the mountain of whispering hymns?
A prayer needs to begin its journey before reaching its destination.
What if the prayer holds a secret and when spoken aloud, huh, a devilish soul, a rival, a conspirator hears it?
Darn it, don’t fear, make a move!
Don’t let a passionate prayer rest amongst the unspoken, ignored, forgotten, suppressed thoughts.
Let it be heard, this secret prayer, for what if a poet catches it and turns it into a timeless sonnet or a dramatist turns it into a tragicomedy or a composer turns it into an epic melody…
Anna Akhmatova uttered a prayer aloud and heard it carefully, herself first, and then turned it into a poem for the rest.
Writing, perhaps largely just making mental notes, living in Stalin’s Russia, facing censorship and strict impediments, Anna Akhmatova stood her ground to witness the brutalities Time threw her way – her dear ones struggling in soviet labour camps – and refused to leave her country.
What anchored her in the storm?
How come the maddening drama unfolding in her life did not suffocate?
Is not her work a verdict that catches Time in the witness box? And her poems a passionate prayer that acquits Time for she knows it will change? Her loud prayer a promise not meant to be broken? Yes, yes, yes!
You Will Hear Thunder
By Anna Akhmatova
You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.
Anna Akhmatova prayed for Fire, for storms; not the fire that spreads strategically to plunder, but the fire that engulfs to bring an end, former started by a selected few and latter by the overwhelmed masses.
She knew well the dual persona of Fire and thus invoked it.
When lit as a ritual, Fire remembers to abide by the fancy cultural twists, but when lit for destruction, it does not stop until it destroys the destroyer, forgiving none, consuming all, levelling the ground for a new beginning.