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Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Collection of Poems. Part 2

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    Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Collection of poems Part 2. Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov

  Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Collection of Poems in English. Part 2
   Yevgeny Yevtushenko
  Collection of Poems
  Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov
  1. The Old Women
  2. The House Swayed And Creaked A Choral Hymn Composing...
  3. The Two
  4. I Fancy, I've Already Loved You...
  5. The Ballad Of A Running Take Off
  6. An Attempt To Speak Blasphemy
  7. Nefertiti
  8. Gratitude
  9. Age Disease
  10. Mother
  11. The Pskov Turrets
  12. Confession Of The Power Loving Man
  13. The Limit
  14. Many Times I Have Been Wounded Badly...
  15. You must be capable of facing...
  16. Our Children, Too, Are Liars...
  17. Don't Disappear... For If You Go Away
  18. The Ballad Of The Swallow
  19. When A Man Is 40
  20. For Your Information
  21. The Catkin From An Alder-Tree
  22. Before We Part...
  23. I Can't Digest Extremists...
  24. You Whispered In My Ear...
  25. The Ballad Of The Swallow
  26. It's Not A Second Time
  27. The Sneer
  28. The Troubadour's Secret
  29. Should The Clover Rustle In The Meadow...
  30. The Talent Of Improvisation...
  31. Don't Disappear... For If You Go Away...
  32. Oh Georgia,
  33. Ideas, Dear, Right And Fair...
  34. Straightforwardness Can Be A Little Off...
  35. The Song My Son Is Softly Humming Spells...
  36. I Don't Want To Please Everybody...
  37. I Look Upon You With Repulsion And Disgust...
  38. On The Bank Of The River I Happened...
  39. Self-Pity
  40. Indifference Censorship
  41. With days, I suppose, I may
  42. You haven't given ...
  43. My ma is getting old, to my dismay...
  44. When poetry is self-assured...
  45. Old Age Tears
  46. The Wolves' Trial
  47. The World Is Mad. It's Reasonably Furnished...
  That day I sat over a cup of tea
  amid the high society of grannies
  there reigned the atmosphere of courtesy
  something these days one doesn't often see, -
  intact and unaffected manners.
  The high-bred mischief in the playful eyes
  the subtle curiosity, well hidden,
  were telling me about the former times
  much more than what historians had written.
  To me whose mother tongue is scant
  as poor as a house, robbed and damaged,
  the pure Russian phrases were like cant
  and phrases borrowed from a foreign language.
  In fact, the grannies were famous just
  because of famous people's admiration.
  The sign of the invisible Masonic caste
  upon the feathered creatures cast
  a lofty shadow of participation.
  Somehow at cutting in I drew the line,
  at times a glance would really make me shudder.
  I felt out of place like home-made wine
  amid such nectars as 'amontillado'.
  It would have been a brutish thing to do
  to call them snobs, or highbrows, or whatever.
  They were superior to me, and yet I knew
  they didn't think they were too clever.
  I thought about the devastating wars
  they had gone through and still were waging -
  The two world wars and thousands of those
  they'd been perpetually engaged in.
  They had been forced to go so far!
  Behind the grinding sound of wires
  I saw such places as Karaganda
  at table over tea with cakes and pies.
  And yet the grannies hadn't grown profane
  like ladies, dressed in quilted jackets, really,
  they would cut short the swearer with disdain
  by looking down on him or her austerely.
  They'd dig the frozen ground for hours and days
  the stormy blizzard knocking down the diggers,
  they would disparage muttering the names
  of some distinguished outstanding figures.
  A super power of supersonic sound,
  of super- sciences and engineering,
  to me, my dear Russia, you're a land
  of grannies, p'rhaps too strict but all-forgiving.
  I noticed that the clothes they wore
  and their turn-down collars were quite old fashioned...
  I watched them and with gratitude I saw
  they were, actually, the embodiment of Russia.
  I listened to them pricking up my ears.
  What would I say getting a word in edgeways?
  I'd rather write for grannies such as these,
  let others write their poems for teenagers.
  The house swayed and creaked a choral hymn composing;
  it was a burial service chorale for you and me.
  The creaking house felt that we were not just dozing
  we were dying slowly, unobtrusively.
  'Wait, do not die! ' - a neigh resounded in the meadow
  and echoed in the howl of dogs and fairy wood;
  yet we were dying to each other and for ever
  which was the same as dying to the whole wide world.
  We didn't want to die! A bird pecked in the pine wood,
  a hedgehog ran around in the grass beneath,
  and like a shaggy dog, the black, wet night flowed onward
  holding a water-lily, a star, between its teeth.
  The darkness breathed the smell of raspberries through shutters;
  behind my back I saw - without turning round -
  my worn-out sweetheart sleep quietly with Plato's
  spiritual girl-friend, a sister she had found.
  I thought about marriages being made in heaven,
  about how mean we all liars and traitors were:
  I used to love you, dear, like thousands of brethren,
  and like as many foes I drove you to despair.
  Yes, you have changed a lot. Your angry look is arduous;
  you sneer bitterly, as you put out a claw.
  Isn't it we ourselves who turn our beloved ones
  to kinds of hateful creatures we can't love anymore?
  The fount of eloquence is obviously worthless
  when wasted on a row, a stupid petty scene,
  I wanted to bring happiness to all the earthlings
  but couldn't make it with a single human being.
  Yes, we were dying but I couldn't just believe in
  the end of you and me, the end of both of us.
  Our love had not yet died, it was alive and breathing
  the trace of it imprinted upon her looking glass.
  The house swayed and creaked amidst the nettle, stinging,
  as if it were offering restraint and will of life.
  We were dying there but we were still living.
  We loved each other still which meant we were alive.
  Some day (oh, God forbid, I still hope for salvation)
  when I fall out of love and when I really die
  my flesh will make a point, with hidden exultation,
  of whispering at nights: 'so you are alive! '
  Belated man of wisdom in our world of passions,
  I'll come to realize: my flesh does tell a lie;
  I'll tell myself: 'I'm dead. My love is turned to ashes.
  I used to be in love. I used to be alive.'
  Two people loving each other make a rebellion of two.
  It is a thundering whisper breaking abuses through.
  Two lovers in hay, or woodbine, make God Almighty's light,
  it is like a waltzing ball of innumerous threads of life.
  Two people adoring each other resemble two orphan kids
  that cling to the skirt of beauty like puppies reaching for feeds.
  They are a sort of skin-readers and linguists of human eyes.
  To understand the tremors they don't need any advice.
  The bed-sheets they've crumbled they value more than anything else.
  The names that they whisper are greater than any of greatest names.
  It is a serious menace, conspiracy, biggest of all. It is a rebellion of body
  against separation from soul. It is uncontrollable, and it's
  like two kingdoms, or two nations merged voluntarily
  without declaring a war. Staring like freaks and sneering,
  the crowd have got a good mind to wait for severe punishment
  for love is said to be blind. But would it be worth getting married
  if we were to decide to cure ourselves from happiness,
  the pleasure of being blind? If blindness is laughed at squeamishly,
  then, I imagine, the world can perish from an explosion,
  and rise from a whispered word.
  July 6th,1966
  I fancy, I've already loved you.
  I fancy, I've already killed you.
  But you revived embodied in a girl,
  as an ingenuous figure on a ball;
  your body bent, you try to keep your balance -
  as if you were from Picasso's canvass.
  You ask me with your heart and soul:
  'Do love me! ', like ' Don't push me off the ball! '
  I am that weary acrobatic man,
  my muscles make me look a humpbacked one
  who knows that all advice is false and leads astray,
  and you are sure to fall down anyway.
  I want to say: 'I love you', but I fear,
  it's like announcing: 'I'll kill you, dear'.
  For in the depth of the transparent face
  I see no end of faces, full of grace,
  of which I've loved and killed a lot,
  by torturing, or crushing on the spot.
  You're pale from fear, balancing the ball:
  'I've been among them, and I know it all.
  I know that you've already loved me.
  I know that you've already killed me.
  But I will not reverse the world. I won't.
  Love me again, then kill me if you want'.
  I tell you, girl, do stop your ball.
  I'm tired of killing, . I'm too old.
  But you drive on the planet with your feet,
  and saying: 'Love me do', you fall off it.
  And deep inside the eyes, - so much like yours, -
  I read: 'You will not kill me, I suppose! '
  You've fallen behind from your flock, little swan!
  I know how it feels to be left all alone.
  Your delicate body pleases the eye,
  your wings, white as snow, are extremely alluring
  but they are belated, - well, nothing doing, -
  you are as good as dead for the sky.
  But here on the earth you've been petted and pampered,
  they fondle you, play with you till you are battered.
  It's true, there's a shortage of flour and bread,
  it's true, there's a shortage of moral immunity,
  but there is a swan in our community,
  and it's a tame bird, one shouldn't forget!
  Attempting to capture and conquer the skies
  the heart-breaking blizzard was smashing the wires;
  stones, barrels and posts were high up above,
  and even a mail box, as high as the cloud,
  dislodged from the hinges rolled up and around.
  And only your wings were not strong enough.
  So, getting along to the whistle of blizzard,
  amid brutes and drunkards the villagers pigged it.
  They were unaware of the fact that at night
  in one of the houses, constantly smelling
  of bug-killing powder, pickles and herring,
  under the cupboard where you were dwelling
  your wings grew upturning the boots by your side.
  Your wings had been changing now slowly but surely,
  they now were solid, developing duly.
  Aware of your strength you were happy as hell.
  You knew, if you wished, then, collecting your powers,
  you'd smash at one stroke both the boss and the house.
  But, hating him, somehow you treated him well.
  One day, violating the master's instruction,
  you spread wide your wings - what a daring action! -
  a bush that had burst into bloom overnight.
  ' Good heavens! ' - the master exclaimed, and he didn't
  look happy at all, he was rather indignant,
  you'd broken the stature, the object of pride.
  You were dangerous now, it was clear.
  Should you be moved? But you're such a dear,
  too lovely to share the coop with the hens.
  Should you be fried? But you are too famous.
  Should you stay put? But here you're a menace:
  you've broken the stature. Who knows what comes hence?
  Now hundreds of people came out to cheer:
  the boss took you out, concealing his sneer
  and carrying you like a gift on a tray.
  To camera flashes and barking of hounds
  all tried to get closer to you through the crowds,
  each trying to pinch you and touch you some way.
  The boss put you playfully down on the ground.
  You lay there motionless, making no sound,
  resembling a white crystal vase in the dirt.
  Yet people were pushing their ways with obsession
  to give you a flattering touch of affection
  besmearing the wings of the delicate bird.
  They started reproaching you shrugging their shoulders:
  'Why don't you fly? You've got wings, so make bold as
  to fly right away. Come on, take off at length!
  'Are you a weakling? - a boy put in, pressing, -
  as far as we know from the History lesson,
  the Spartans would put them, the weaklings, to death! '
  Now suddenly, forcing her way through the crowd,
  to help you a chubby old woman came out,
  about a hundred years old but so tough!
  She covered your wings to protect you and shouted:
  'The swan needs a runway! But it's overcrowded!
  Come on! Step aside! It's a running take off! '
  Displaying her firm disposition and purpose
  she quickly dispersed the reporters and gapers,
  and pushed back the crowd, so you could run.
  'Fly off birdie, dear, - she said - it's cleared out! '
  And all of a sudden you rose from the ground,
  and down the runway you ran on and on...
  away from the boss and the violent crowd,
  away from the barking of shabby old hound,
  right off to your homeland - the sky and the sun.
  And all you could hear were the words in the air:
  'Good luck, birdie, dear! Fly off! Anywhere!
  As far from this place as you possibly can! '
  When I am down, driven to despair,
  to the magnet of the world I turn my word
  whispering devoutly my prayer,
  begging: 'Pardon me and help me, Lord'.
  God forgives and helps for He's gracious,
  and He wonders why the human race
  bothers Him with pious incantations
  trespassing His charity and grace.
  God Almighty must be feeling fear,
  and it doesn't matter what He's called -
  Buddha, Allah or Jehovah - it is clear
  He is one, - and tired of being God.
  Even if he's immaterial and shapeless,
  or a tiny little idol of a kind,
  He would like to hide himself from beggars
  in a quiet place that He could find.
  But He cannot hide for He is God Almighty;
  so He bends His head, a humble lot.
  God would trust in God and live in piety,
  but there isn't any God for God.
  When we pester Him with petty pleas and dare
  to forget about the debts we've got
  there is nobody to listen to His prayer:
  'Pardon me and help me, please, my God.'
  You may have doubts,
  be persistent,
  yet Nefertiti
  was existent.
  She lived a long, long time ago
  with an Egyptian pharaoh,
  she slept with him, he loved her beastly,
  but she, in fact, belonged to history.
  He suffered from the wretched feeling
  that his possessing her was seeming.
  He had
  bombastic, pompous features
  and made
  incriminating speeches.
  He thought of his imperial duty,
  but Avicenna once asserted
  that in the face of genuine beauty
  a ruler's power is imperfect.
  It made the pharaoh feel inferior...
  at dinner
  he would look austere;
  thinking about it he'd frown
  and throw the crumpled napkin down.
  He had an army, troops and chariots,
  while she had eyes and long black eyelids,
  a starlit forehead, nice as heck
  and an amazing curve of neck.
  And when they floated in procession
  the onlookers' all attention
  was focused, which they were aware of,
  on Nefertiti, not the pharaoh.
  When he caressed her he was moody,
  at times he'd treat her rather rudely
  for he was conscious of fragility
  of power, beside her femininity.
  the sphinxes
  slowly faded,
  beliefs were horribly collated,
  but through events and through ideas
  through all
  that had deceived the ages
  her neck stretched out, it appears,
  until it's reached the present stages.
  We see her
  in a schoolboy's drawing
  and on a broach on women's clothing.
  She frees some women from foreboding,
  she's always fresh,
  and never boring.
  And, like before, some feel inferior
  beside the grace of her exterior.
  We fuss about, full of care...
  While Nefertity...
  Well, she's there:
  through cares, faces,
  and whatever,
  she stretches out her neck, as ever.
  You may have doubts,
  be persistent,
  yet Nefertiti
  is existent.
  She said: 'He will be sleeping well all night', -
  as she arranged her sonny's bed with care;
  and as she clumsily switched off the light
  her dress slipped smoothly down on the chair.
  We didn't want to talk about love.
  She whispered something, slightly drawling,
  and, like a grape, her 'r''s were rolling
  behind her white teeth: down and above.
  'About my life I didn't care a bit,
  and then, all of a sudden, it fell out! ..
  A worn-out man-like toiler, I turned out
  to be a woman. Funny, isn't it? '
  I thought I had to thank her in some way.
  In search of safety in a helpless body
  I found shelter, like a wolf at bay,
  in snowy bed-clothes of my female buddy.
  But, like a hunted down wolf, forlorn,
  she talked my head off whispering in tears,
  she was obliged to me, which made me burn
  with chilling shame of her sincerest cheers.
  I should besiege her with my rhymes of praise,
  get shy and blush, turn pale and redden...
  Instead, I have her thanks! What a disgrace!
  A woman! thanks a man! for fondling! Heaven!
  How could it happen? How can it be done?
  Without thinking of the essence of the woman
  we have removed her. We've brought her down
  to the equality with the male human.
  In human history it's an amazing phase,
  prepared by the vicious, crafty ages:
  men have become somewhat of women nowadays
  while women are quite mannish, poor angels!
  My Lord! How ardent was her shoulder bend
  that strained against my pressing finger-nail,
  an how impressive was the way she turned
  from an asexual thing into a female!
  Then her transfigured eyes were plunged in gloom,
  they flickered with the light of candle's coolness...
  A woman needs so little to assume
  the reputation of the fair sex! My Goodness!
  I've fallen ill. For once it's age disease.
  I don't know how it came about but
  when something happens to me it appears
  as though I had already been through that.
  Indeed, I'm sick and tired of hugs and rows,
  I only hope it's transient and fleeting.
  Some day I'll gape at something in surprise
  the way a rustic gapes around in a city.
  My life experience is like an armor plate,
  so that a bullet, not just a pill, for certain
  will hit another bullet, which to date
  has been inside me as a painful burden.
  Delight has flown in for light into my hall,
  and, desperately shaking off its spangles,
  dashes against my limpid armored soul
  resembling a moth that in the lampshade struggles.
  I can't restore myself although I try.
  Love and all that my flesh has outgrown;
  it makes my blood run deadly cold when I
  feel that all this to me is not unknown.
  Well, it's the same old age, and here I go
  stepping upon the same old silhouette,
  and snow falls, hissing, on my cigarette,
  the same old cigarette, the same old snow.
  The repetition is our payment for cognition,
  and women are like cities, I suppose,
  which I have visited on this or other mission
  though I do not remember when it was.
  I'm still alive, and I should like to have
  the power of sensitivity and feeling,
  but I repeat myself, when flying up above
  or falling prone bump on the stone, all bleeding.
  Is this the answer to the question raised
  that life, where ample space is just a vision,
  has got its limits while cognition is replaced
  by the phenomenon of repetition?
  Shall I blow up like an explosive or
  fade out in a gradual transition
  assuming I've already died before,
  and die again - which means a repetition?
  A mother, child in arms, is beautiful indeed.
  But little boy is striving for release.
  A lovely dare-devil, an indomitable kid,
  With golden chips of curls round his ears.
  As he absorbs his milk and soup and grated fruits
  He reaches out for pickles, and sour foods.
  And then one day, as solid as a church-house,
  A snow-white tooth springs up in his mouth.
  The mother's happy, a lump in her throat,
  When, her imperious ruler, occupying the pot,
  Sits on that throne with a solemn air,
  Czar Peter the Great, as if he were.
  But where is it, that subtle bound,
  When, wile on his face, the cunning boy
  Pretending he is an innocuous toy,
  Starts playing on his mom and fools around?
  When making a hysteric scene
  The little villain does it with intent:
  He knows: by vexing mother he'll get anythin'
  And really gets it in the end!
  and if need be, he'll make it with caress
  Hanging on mother's neck as if quite unawares,
  While in his little mind a pharmacist is
  Measuring off the amount of honey or tears.
  The mother takes it all in real earnest:
  The mutinies, pretended snivels, cries...
  Somebody else's children can be dishonest,
  As for her own child he can't tell lies.
  One day he'll suddenly tell a lie
  And the most sacred thing in life will shudder.
  The child's dishonesty, like acid or like fire
  Will burn the loving heart of mother.
  We all start telling lies at one time or another.
  However many women we deceive,
  At present or in future, I believe
  There is the first deceived one: mother.
  Having resigned, the artist put on,
  decorously, a leather apron,
  and took the title of a smith.
  It was for fun, not ostentation
  that on his head, in exaltation,
  he put a heavy hammered wreath.
  A stout man and quite unbalanced,
  the artist happened to drink hard,
  he was the guardian of turrets,
  a zealot with the loving heart.
  He rose against the brutal order
  when the Pskov turrets at the border,
  were just disgraceful heaps of stones,
  by love of Russian craft-work governed
  clad in unseen brocaded garment,
  he would cast pearls of pros and cons.
  He'd say the turrets were neglected,
  unflagged and rather devastated,
  looking like coffins made of stone.
  Catching the pen-pushers on porches
  he'd lecture them on the importance
  of iron ensigns and so on.
  'Rag-flags are bad! - the artist argued.
  We have our laundries all surcharged,
  whereas ensigns are made of flame.
  They're hammered carefully and molded,
  they last for ages, forged unfolded,
  without a single crease on them.
  Livonian foes would sneeze inhaling
  the smoke of forge shops, badly smelling,
  which boded ill as a bad sign,
  when from a stubborn piece of iron
  whose quality was just divine
  the forefathers forged an ensign.
  That's how our land was being founded,
  when, to wild shouts on all sides,
  the hostile arrows just rebounded
  from our tiny little ensigns.
  The iron flag is not the same as
  the timid weather-vane that tremors
  and in the wind so humbly waves.
  We have them but they don't avail us,
  our Motherland, my dear fellows,
  needs iron flags, not weather-vanes! '
  The artist argued., brave and fearless,
  descendant of the race of heroes,
  a fighter and a bearded lot,
  he went through pen-pushes' answers
  whose pens were like czarist lances, -
  his own weapon was his thought.
  And now exerting every effort
  the high rank guardian, dressed in rags,
  was hammering a furious leopard,
  and a gracious deer, - iron flags.
  And smiling blissfully, so curious,
  some Japanese and other tourists,
  young and old people from all sides,
  and even bureaucratic tyrants
  admire ancient Pskovian turrets
  and the victorious ensigns.
  Thank all the guardians of Russia!
  Thank their skillful, masterly hand.
  Like iron ensigns, never crashing,
  they're keeping watch on Motherland.
  And, standing by the ruins of panels,
  in hope of glory and good times
  I hear the clank of forge-shop anvils:
  it's Russia, hammering out ensigns!
  Pskov - a city in the North Western part of Russia (with the population of 200.000) , dating back to the 10th century, known for its historical monuments of architecture: church buildings, chapels, monasteries, cathedrals and fortresses, among them are the famous Mirozhsky Monastery, the Kremlin and the Izborsk Fortress with its turrets and iron ensigns. (A. V.)
  All has its limits in this world of ours:
  love, patience, heart and mind, and human powers,
  as well as seeming endlessness of vastness.
  You, poet, shouldn't be tormented by
  the limit of your strength and years that fly.
  It's not a cause for shame and fussiness.
  A scoundrel may sneer in your face
  that as a writer you have seen your days.
  You keep away from it, just don't believe it.
  You've reached the limit but you're strong.
  To say that talent is unlimited is wrong.
  It's human baseness that has got no limit.
  to L. Paley
  Perhaps, all is power struggle in this world:
  flirt, friendship, passion and a solemn word.
  A rooster is engaged in power struggle.
  The rule of nature is scientists' goal.
  Without power struggle nature can't but fall.
  Over control of sand-box children wrangle.
  Through centuries all poets, in the main,
  have looked on power struggle with disdain
  but tried with moral principles to bungle.
  I do not want a post from anyone, however,
  I am a power-loving man:
  for power over people's hearts I struggle.
  At forty years of age a man
  should give account: is he done?
  Is he worn out and beaten? ,
  and answer for each year he's lived,
  each dropp of milk he has received,
  each crumb of bread he's eaten.
  At forty years a man should not
  expect allowances from God
  and be too self-assertive,
  for all the feelings he has hurt
  and every scribbled lying word
  rebound on him, for certain.
  At forty years of age a man
  should have to put up with a ban -
  no pleasure is allowed.
  For if the body overcomes
  so smug and happy it becomes:
  the soul has been devoured.
  The body, too, is lost and gone
  when, gradually, you're frayed and worn
  like pseudo Christ, from kisses.
  Perpetual love affairs will end
  in haziness, confusion and
  a crowd of naked misses.
  When young we clearly see our course,
  and live the life of a carouse,
  at forty we are crapulous.
  Our feet are heavy, we're tongue tied.
  Words, failing us, can't be combined.
  Our new home is lightless.
  When we are young, at breakneck pace
  we hurry to the market place
  to vanquish fortune there.
  At forty tediously we drag,
  back home with our empty bag:
  we have been robbed at fair!
  At forty years of age a man
  should tell himself and everyone:
  do not set foot on fairs.
  You'll never sell if you don't cheat
  and if you cheat, you're in for it,
  such are the trade affairs.
  It's worse when, trembling like a horse,
  you neigh, tied by your trading boss,
  the crook that gets you round.
  While you feel equally ashamed
  both when you are involved in trade
  and when they sell you out.
  Life paints a man of forty grey;
  well, if you cannot be a bay
  be grey such as a dapple;
  and bear in mind one little thing:
  do not sell out off your skin
  a single spot, called 'apple'.1
  When you are forty years old
  you should remember that the world
  is not just trading session.
  The best is yet to come your way,
  avoid a comedy, and play
  your part with self-possession!
  At forty think about your fate,
  decide if you should bloom or fade,
  which is a better virtue?
  You can't escape the day of doom,
  however, if you choose to bloom
  no power can prevent you.
  I'd like to give you this information,
  you, travelling in the rattling train of years:
  the station
  you've chosen as your destination
  is not to be found anywhere on earth.
  Investigation has shown it clearly:
  there is no
  such station as
  'Second Youth'.
  I'd like to inform you that it was extremely
  unwise of you, silly and stupid, too,
  to have let your first youth slip, and, really,
  I have to admit
  I am one of you.
  I'd like to inform you of our reality:
  the stations that follow are Old Age and Death,
  but you believe in your immortality
  insisting upon it for all you are worth.
  I'd like to inform you,
  ladies and gentlemen:
  if all that you have
  in your travelling bag
  is junk
  and some funny stories for merriment,
  you've reached Death Station,
  with no way back.
  I'd like to inform you of what will happen:
  You will be absorbed by years,
  all the same;
  and only the chicken
  you had for supper,
  like shadows
  will follow your rattling train...
  Many times I have been wounded badly,
  crawling home, my soul and body stiff;
  not that I've been beaten angrily, -
  you can wound one even with a leaf.
  I have wounded some with unavailing
  transient caress, alluring eyes,
  and I know it can be very ailing
  and as painful as the touch of ice.
  Why on earth, do I offend my brothers,
  tread on ruins of my dearest friends,
  I, the one who easily wounds others
  and the one who's quick to take offence?
  * * *
  Our children, too, are liars...
  They, too, can be pretentious.
  A war they see in films
  is ice-cream on a tray,
  They have respect for rank,
  they're callously tenacious
  and smart at pushing others
  out of their way.
  And when I see in them
  the germ of cruel habits
  I certainly do not
  blame children anyway
  that sometimes they can be
  wild wolves, not humble rabbits
  although their food is not
  yet that of beasts of pray.
  It's not an old yes-man
  but it's a little demon,
  a seven year old sneak
  that scares me most of all.
  My son, be what you want, -
  a football player even., -
  but be a decent man!
  And that will settle all.
  You do not have to be
  Ashamed of daddy, dear,
  You will not understand
  Until you're old and wise:
  it 's out of despair,
  and it 's out of fear
  that father lied about
  the children being liars...
  To D. Batler
  The instant a catkin falls down on my palm from an alder
  or when a cuckoo gives a call, through the thunder of train,
  attempting to give explanation to living I ponder
  and find it impossible to understand and explain.
  Reducing oneself to a speck of a star-dust is trivial,
  but certainly wiser than being affectedly great,
  and knowing one's smallness is neither disgrace nor an evil,
  it only implies our knowledge of greatness of fate.
  The alder-tree catkin is light and so airy and fluffy;
  you blow it away, - and the world will go wrong overnight.
  Our life doesn't seem to be petty and trifling
  for nothing in it is a trifle and nothing is slight.
  The alder-tree catkin is greater than any prediction,
  and he who has quietly broken it won't be the same.
  We cannot change everything now by our volition,
  the world tends to change anyway with the change of ourselves.
  And so we transform to assume quite a different essence
  and go on a voyage to a desolate land, far from home,
  we don't even notice and don't realize our presence
  on board an entirely different ship, in a storm.
  And when you are seized with a feeling of hopeless remoteness,
  away from the shores where the sunrise amazed you at dawn,
  my dear good friend, don't despair and please don't be hopeless, -
  believe in the black frightening harbors, so strange and unknown.
  A place, when remote, may be frightening but not when it's near.
  There's everything there: eyes, voices, the lights and the sun...
  As you get accustomed the creak of the shadowy pier
  will tell you that there're can be more piers and harbors than one.
  Your soul clears up, with no malice against the conversion.
  Forgive all your friends that betrayed you, or misunderstood.
  Forgive your beloved one if you don't enjoy her affection,
  allow her to fly off your palm like a catkin, for good.
  And don't put your trust in a harbor that gets too officious.
  An endless and harbourless vast is what you must have on the brain.
  If something should keep you pinned down just get off the hinges
  And go on a lasting disconsolate voyage once again.
  'Whenever will he come to reason? ' - some people may grumble.
  You don't have to worry, you know that one cannot please all.
  The saying that 'all things must pass' is a treacherous babble
  if all things must pass, then it isn't worth living at all.
  What can't be explained isn't really absolute nonsense.
  So don't be embarrassed by revaluation of things, -
  There won't be a fall nor a rise in the prices of our life since
  the price of a thing of no value remains as it is.
  ...Now why do I say it? Because a cuckoo, silly liar,
  predicts that I'm going to live a long life
  Now why do I say it? Well, there is an alder-tree flower,
  a catkin, which, quivering, rests on my palm as if live...
  My love,
  can it be you and me,
  as if worn out by a fight and illness,
  not by a fight with our 'enemy'
  but by a lasting strife between us?
  Before we part...
  (our sleeping sonny cries!)
  Before we do...
  (the wind, like crazy, rages outdoors!)
  please come, just once, and look into my eyes,
  look with the same old loving eyes of yours.
  Before we part, as you now beg of me,
  I ask you not to go for good advice,
  to places
  where emptiness pretends to be
  a garden cherishing the moon, so 'nice'.
  Before we part, as you now beg of me,
  just listen to the sobs of ice at night, and
  the blue will suddenly turn out to be
  the green, which will transform into enlightenment.
  Before we part...
  Our life was outrageous! Bother!
  We should be buried live for that!
  When did we actually alienate each other?
  When did we lose our ability to chat?
  I hear you reply: 'Don't call me 'love'...'
  It serves me right.
  So I keep silent, but
  I beg you in the name of our crumpled life:
  my darling,
  please before we part...
  You stare at me, like lifeless,
  in a trance,
  I beg you on my bended knees
  (I do not call you 'love' for once) :
  'My dear old friend, don't leave please...'
  It was day break. O'er the Lena a fir smell hovered.
  The vast was blue, then red, chirps filled the air.
  Sysoyev, the crane driver, had a bad hangover.
  And he expressed his feelings with a swear.
  He was engaged in lifting up containers
  Onto the river barge called 'Diogenes'
  The things that he was handling with for once
  Were long black trunks and lilac underpants.
  He was recurring to the wood. It had been damp
  (With bottles, sprats and midges on the stump) .
  And the wretched red-haired girl, the marker from the site,
  Who'd wavered, shilly-shallying all night!
  She strained beneath her dress, resisting,
  When, after a great deal of drinking,
  Sysoyev tried to resort to force,
  She made an adequate response.
  A village lass, a rebellious chick!
  (Perchance, she did it with good intent)
  She marked the worker's blatant cheek,
  With a heavy slap of her peasant's hand.
  Sysoyev had bad feeling, his spirit broken,
  He thought he was a Hamlet, as it were.
  He crushed the cardboard cigarette-end, smoking,
  And again expressed himself with a swear.
  As he was lifting up a pack of roofing slate,
  (Couldn't they find a better place to store it?) ,
  Sysoyev startled falling silent, in a state,
  A cold sweat standing out on his forehead.
  Over the cranes, the barges, high up in the air
  Or right below the hook, to be exact,
  A swallow fluttered peeping in despair,
  A mother's cry over her child it was, in fact.
  Sysoyev saw that he was shaking
  A nest on the upper plate, about to slide.
  A living, tweeting nest was swaying
  Over the store-house at a mortal height.
  It seemed, Sysoyev didn't care a bit.
  For he wasn't sentimental at all.
  But he took pity on the nestling and the bird,
  He'd been a foster child once, after all.
  Handling the load with utmost care,
  Without swearing and cursing now,
  As if it were TNT or chinaware,
  He put it down on the roof, and how.
  Down on the site, in great surprise,
  Or, perhaps, enchanted, very intently,
  The wretched marker stared, all eyes,
  Watching the hook release so tenderly.
  Sysoyev had done it neatly and with grace,
  And, with the crane rumbling high up in the skies,
  He raised himself, and all the human race,
  In the girl's green highly sensitive eyes.
  And when he took her out again
  Beneath her dress she didn't strain.
  He didn't have to, as before,
  To resort to force now any more.
  She whispered: 'Darling', her voice so pleasing,
  What was the matter? He didn't comprehend.
  He didn't realize: the swallow was the reason.
  But he had saved the bird with no intent.
  I can't digest extremists... I'm sick with
  their twaddle and perverted scope of mind.
  Those ultra left and ultra right are equals:
  smell of routine of the unvarying kind.
  In this two-sided world routinely turning round
  where they fight for power, bombs up the sleeve,
  there's no salvation in the angry screams of 'Down! ..'
  nor in the zealous shouts of 'Long live! ..'
  Between the 'pros' and 'cons', as though between
  the bullets flying by, obscure,
  there is a third, detestable, routine,
  and it's the cowardly highness of the 'pure'.
  It's not a second time. You're suffering again.
  Don't worry. Do some work. More bravery!
  Believe me, being the slave of suffering and pain
  is not the most exciting form of slavery.
  It's not a second time, as I recall,
  that you've been so unfairly offended.
  But why all this self-pity? After all,
  it's he who humbles others is degraded.
  You shouldn't put your torments out for show,
  it is immoral. Put a ban upon it!
  It's not a second time, for all I know,
  that you are suffering ...
  Why all this torment?
  The stupid creatures take delight
  in humbling those who are not stupid,
  but don't give in, just show your pride,
  and sneer at them instead of stooping.
  It happens, when a game is on,
  and 'heads or tails' decides the dealing,
  the winner always is the one
  who has a better skill of sneering.
  The knowledge of a truthful word,
  self-confidence and self-assertion
  are more appalling than revolt,
  rebellion or retaliation.
  Feeling himself an ugly 'apes'
  the savage murderer will shudder,
  when a superior smile escapes
  the wounded lips, like a light shadow.
  That's how a humble slave, perhaps,
  might give a priest a smile of wisdom,
  and that's what lead to the collapse
  of ancient Hammurabi kingdom...
  You must be capable of facing
  the whims of time, and do it well,
  when history keeps alternating
  between stagnation and a whirl.
  Your fear of times you should renounce,
  or else the bounteous givers may
  convey you to a cattle-house
  and gag you with a wisp of hay.
  The fear of time is a transgression,
  don't run your head into the noose,
  but be prepared to lose possession
  of all you are afraid to lose.
  If all collapses for some reason,
  and downfall you can't foretell,
  just say the words of little wisdom:
  'We must get over this as well...'
  Don't disappear... for if you go away,
  transfigured, you will leave your own essence.
  Once and for all your own self you will betray
  and that will be dishonest, downright treacherous.
  Don't go...You can depart quite easily, of course.
  But you and I will not revive. We wouldn't.
  Death has a an extraordinary drawing force,
  and dying, even for a moment, is imprudent.
  Don't go... Forget the shade in our way.
  Love is for two. A third one doesn't count.
  We shall be flawless on the Judgement Day
  when trumpeters call us for account.
  We have atoned for our sin... Don't say good-bye.
  No one can censure us or make an accusation,
  and we deserve to be forgiven by
  all those whom we have hurt, with no intention.
  Don't vanish... You can do it in no time.
  How can we subsequently see each other?
  And can there be the double, yours and mine?
  Exclusively in our kids, I gather.
  Give me your hand... Don't disappear, please.
  You've got me on your palm engraved distinctly.
  The frightening truth about final, last love is
  that it's the fear of loss, not love, to put it strictly.
  Apart from that fine, charming lady
  that has a clavichord at the ready
  to play majestically scales,
  generally, a troubadour
  has got a hidden paramour,
  a stupid maid with a loving face.
  He is ashamed of her a little,
  but she's got legs that will beat all
  and make up for repute and brains.
  The stupid maid may not look pleasant
  but she is touching and complaisant
  when he a casual visit pays.
  She takes her skirt off, understanding
  the troubadour's pangs of loving,
  responding to his acts of cuddling,
  sometimes she blushes, in a state.
  And she obeys him in excitement...
  He's pleased. When she's beside him
  he is himself, which makes him great.
  The talent of improvisation
  is dangerous. - Don't go to pot! -
  but it can be realisation
  of an astounding, brilliant thought.
  Like cabbage soup, matured and seasoned,
  turns sour like a brewing mash
  a thought begot by sense of reason
  will be inferior to 'trash'.
  And never mind the fools that prattle:
  their barbaric crazy rhymes,
  pronounced hastily like babble,
  show the internal truth at times...
  * * *
  Should the clover rustle in the meadow
  or a pine-tree in the wind should sway
  I will stop and listen and remember
  that I, too, will pass away some day.
  When I see a boy, a pigeon-fancier,
  standing on the roof, right on the brink,
  I believe that death is not the answer,
  dying is a ruthless thing, I think.
  Death is what we ought to be aware of.
  We shall perish but our world survives;
  those who will replace the dead, however,
  cannot substitute for their lives.
  It was not in vain that I was trodden,
  I have learnt my lesson, as I find.
  What I bore mind I have forgotten,
  what I did forget I bear in mind.
  Now I know that snow is very special,
  and the hills are greener, when you're young,
  and I know that life implies affection,
  for we live because we love someone.
  Now I know that secretly I happened
  to be bound to so many lives,
  and I know that man is so unhappy
  just because for happiness he strives.
  Happiness, at times, is rather silly,
  takes of things a vacant, flippant view,
  whereas trouble stares, frowning grimly,
  hence, its power of seeing trough and through.
  Happiness is distant and unreal.
  Trouble sees the earth in its true light.
  Happiness has somewhat of betrayal,
  trouble will be always by man's side.
  It was thoughtless of me to be happy,
  but, thank God, it failed me anyway.
  I desired the impossible to happen,
  and I'm glad it didn't come my way.
  People, humankind, I love you dearly,
  for a happy life as ever you may strive.
  As for me, now I 'm happy, really,
  because happiness I do not seek in life.
  What I want now is the taste sweetness
  of the clover on my lips to stay,
  and I want to have my little weakness:
  my unwillingness to perish right away.
  Ideas, dear, right and fair,
  what's this make-up for, false and feigned?
  Why all this wig, this switch of hair,
  why so much powder and paint?
  The words of scoundrels and liars
  that ornaments the filth of drains
  embellish real life of ours,
  which only covers it with stains.
  I hate a scoundrel that cares
  so much for powder, cream and all...
  The mask of make-up which he wears
  becomes his face once and for all.
  can be a little off.
  It's crooked inside, oblique and bending.
  Though guiltless,
  life is guilty of presenting
  a pattern which is not facile enough.
  Don't try to straighten out your life:
  by simple logic
  it's an attempt to mend or mar, and, I should say,
  a rectilinear path between two distant objects
  can be the longest way.
  The song my son is softly humming spells
  a quiet babbling twitter of a bird, and
  I am afraid that I may shift the burden
  of all my torments on somebody else.
  I am afraid that I may blame some others for
  the tricks I played on words, my friends and brothers.
  I am afraid that I may shift the war,
  that hangs above our heads, on others.
  When with the people suffering grief we toy,
  afraid of sharing their pains and sorrows,
  behind the happy life that we enjoy
  there's somewhat of a bribe palmed off upon us.
  If I were the greatest man, or say,
  the finest and the worthiest human being,
  I wouldn't have the privilege of living
  without pain - for others, anyway.
  Of course, I'd like to have the best in life,
  of course, I'd like to win respect and veneration,
  but why the hell, I wonder, should I strive
  for creature comforts, coveting protection?
  Beware of a shameful life without pain,
  a life without thinking, striving, suffering...
  It is, indeed, a doubtful blessing when
  you have a stroke of luck as an unwanted happening.
  And if I chance to go through happy days
  I'll do my best to make them gloom and shadow
  so that I shake with cold, chilled to the marrow,
  when hearing the flaming words of praise.
  The sufferings that we invent will not
  make up for other people's troubles.
  When our own grieves we haven't got
  we can avail ourselves for those of others.
  I don't want to please everybody
  for along with the habit to fight
  I have time, or all times, in my body
  like a seed, implanted inside.
  I don't play looking timidly westward,
  I don't worship the East, like blind,
  I don't want to be doubly favoured
  for it's not what I have in mind.
  When engaged in a fierce battle
  one cannot sincerely side
  both with those getting killed like cattle
  and the ones who commit genocide.
  I get on. People find me ambiguous...
  Pleasing all is indecent and lewd.
  I do not gratify the obsequious
  nor the ones who stir up a feud.
  I don't want to be loved by a crowd,
  but I want to be loved by you,
  by my friends and well-wishers around,
  and some day by my sonny, too.
  I just want to be loved and favoured
  by the ones who fight to the last.
  I want to be loved by the shade of
  my father whom I have lost.
  I look upon you with repulsion and disgust,
  you, rosy race of pleasure hunters
  that cynically play the little bantams...
  Time will, you think, take pity on your past.
  You may enjoy your babyhood all right
  but as you get mature, beware of rattles,
  and don't stretch out idly on a mattress
  exclaiming: 'I'm pleased and satisfied! '
  The names of those who wanted just to strive
  for pleasure have all sunk into oblivion.
  Eternity is only merciful and lenient
  to those who never wanted lenience in life.
  * * *
  On the bank of the river I happened
  to be sitting, absorbed in thought.
  How can I make my sweetheart happy?
  Can I possibly do it or not?
  She's well off, has got friends and a family,
  goes to parties, and pictures with kids.
  But she wants to possess me entirely,
  as a whole, while I'm broken to bits.
  I have carried the world, like a boulder,
  on my back, splinters grazing my skin,
  and I left my beloved one no shoulder
  to cry on, - that's the way I have been.
  What we give them is wrinkles, not flowers,
  we don't spare their lives, full of care;
  men are thievish and sly seeking lovers,
  whereas women do it out of despair.
  How can I make her happy, my woman?
  What on earth should I bring to her side
  when the life that I gave her was wormy
  which was clearly seen at first sight?
  To no purpose so often we happen
  to offend dear sweethearts of ours.
  We can make our sweethearts unhappy,
  but we can't make them happy, alas!
  We shouldn't wait for thanks from people.
  Big is the coffin without flowers in it.
  Filth will be washed away with spittle
  when on the coffin haughtily they spit.
  And yet we'd rather be disliked and envied,
  than grab and have it for our very own,
  or open mouth on the sly and strain it
  attempting to suppress the sluggish yawn.
  The censorship we had was like asphyxiation,
  it's been kicked out, it appears, passed away,
  but now we have indifference suffocation,
  a censor much more frightening, in a way.
  We're cheating ourselves, is it not silly?
  It's been acknowledged for innumerable years:
  a nation has at its disposal, willy-nilly,
  the kind of literature that it deserves.
  As dense as taiga trees is our ignorance.
  Excuse us, Russian literature, don't
  be strict to us... For our indifference
  with your indifference do not respond.
  With days, I suppose, I may
  be lonelier than I am today.
  With years I may get to know
  that I don't exist any more.
  With ages one may, I suppose,
  forget who I really was.
  If only with days I would not
  feel shame for my fated lot.
  If only with years, cursed or praised,
  I wouldn't be double faced.
  If only with ages people
  wouldn't cover my grave with spittle.
  Though animals do have some human features
  they differ from humans, the snivelling creatures.
  A dog doesn't whine with its head full of bees, -
  old age is what squeezes out its tears.
  We wipe their eyes with their own ears
  to rid their living of old age tears.
  How can a dog see a fox or a hare,
  with tears in its eyes, how can it stare?
  When I was a child I would howl like crazy,
  at times I pretended and did it amazingly;
  late tears, however, are held in concealment,
  and I am afraid I may break that agreement.
  And hiding my sobs in a sigh, feeling nervous,
  I stand like a stone at a funeral service.
  I talked to my eyes, and I pricked up my ears
  to hear them reach an agreement with tears.
  I don't want to weep but howl like a hound
  when smelling the paint of a coffin around;
  and here on the grave where my friend disappears
  I cannot help crying, nor holding my tears.
  August 25, 1994
  One day in accordance
  with set regulation
  three wolves tried a forth one
  at their convention.
  They blamed him for killing a deer,
  violating tradition
  and carrying it to them through snow storms,
  without permission.
  The deer was good,
  but thy found his action insulting:
  how dared he do it alone
  without consulting? !
  To wolves in the woods
  where greed is a natural instinct
  a conquest without the help of a pack
  is an insult.
  The boss of the wolves, the inveterate boor,
  the mugger,
  he had all his forehead ploughed up
  with the wrinkles of anger.
  Forgetting the deer,
  which came as a present from heaven,
  he was outraged, the old cripple,
  the ignorant layman.
  The talented beast couldn't bear
  the fortunate instance,
  in an imperious manner he roared
  with an air of innocence.
  The second one, cool as Iago,
  a cowardly being,
  had always been trying
  to pose as a noble by breeding.
  A beggarly aristocrat,
  with an arrogant look of 'His Highness',
  he looked at his junior brother, a sinner,
  with sadness.
  But judging by how he was turning his nose
  it was clear
  that though he was squeamish
  he did want some meat of the deer.
  The third little wolf dropped his eyes
  looking sickly and fevered,
  as meek as a lamb, spineless creature,
  with fear he shivered.
  He feared the wolves,
  both the first and second one equally;
  he feared the forth one as well,
  and was wavering meekly.
  He wanted a bone
  and the name of a real peace-setter,
  his mate was all right
  but the pack he belonged to was better.
  'He's not one of us - roared the boss -
  he's a real go-getter.
  We'll turn him away, -
  there's no room in the pack for a traitor'.
  His helpers, refraining from snarling,
  kept silent with dignity,
  they nodded approval in silence,
  assuming nobility.
  the wolf at the bar was about to howl,
  'I did it for you, stupid fools' -was all he could growl.
  He must have forgotten that wolves
  only laughed at emotions,
  and bringing a gift was a crime,
  so one had to be cautious.
  You lived with the wolves and you did as they did,
  so do not bear grudges.
  There's no such a thing as defence
  when the wolves are the judges.
  He plodded on snow
  to the shimmering lights in the distance,
  as lone as a wolf, or a human, can be
  in the wilderness.
  The deer was gone,
  and the site was now fuming, deserted;
  the prey had been looted by rivals
  which they had invaded.
  'Those judges, it does serve them right, -
  said the wolf with a sneer.
  For what is a pack?
  Herd of cattle, benighted and drear.
  Those masters and slaves, little groupies and groups, -
  all is vanity,
  or should I say, it's stupidity,
  madness, insanity.
  They boasted that freedom
  was their advantage and mercy,
  but life in a pack
  always tends to be somewhat oppressive'.
  The wolf, on his way to the lights and the chimneys,
  his journey proceeded:
  'I'd better be shot by a hunter
  than bitten to death by my kindred'.
  I'd better stop this talk about wolves and geese.
  I've got a sheet of paper, look at this:
  The paper is in blood like snow on battle-plain,
  a man is lying on it racked with pain.
  * * *
  The world is mad. It's reasonably furnished.
  No one has died. Nothing has vanished.
  There is no past. We're in it's haze, and
  there is no future. There is only present.
  Tsar Alexander, the Liberator,
  blown up by a disgraceful traitor
  says sympathetically to Gorbachev:
  'You were lucky, after all, by Jove...'
  June 3, 1996
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