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There is a sacred, secret line in loving
which attraction and even passion cannot cross,—
even if lips draw near in awful silence
and love tears at the heart.

Friendship is weak and useless here,
and years of happiness, exalted and full of fire,
because the soul is free and does not know
the slow luxuries of sensual life.

Those who try to come near it are insane
and those who reach it are shaken by grief,
So now you know exactly why
my heart beats no faster under your hand.


[From Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated from the Russian by Jane Kenyon with Vera Sandomirsky Dunham (1985)]


One does feel this –
That everything from paper hearts to fervid verse
Only faintly approaches the insane grief-shaken
Love the free soul can conceive.

We are therefore kindest to ourselves
When we close our mind-forg’d manacles
Around our too-fast-beating hearts.


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