@Rhymes from Russia
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Collection of Poems, Part II
translated by Alec Vagapov
It's autumn time inside me, as I feel.
It's cool and† lucid, and I see quite clearly,
although Iím sad, I am not despaired, really,
and I am filled with patience and good will.
And if , at times, I do get wild indeed,
I do it when I fade† and leave my foliage,
and then I come to sad and simple knowledge
that rage and rampage isn't what we need.
But what we really need is just a chance
to see the raging world and our own selves
in all the bareness of autumn spells,
when† we can see† all through,† at once.
Enlightenment† is the child of peace and calm.
So never mind if† we don't rage and riot.
We'd better shuffle off all wrangles and keep quiet
in order that we see new foliage come.
Something has happened to me, for I trust
and I rely exclusively on silence
where leaves pile on the ground,† tired of violence,
and turn,† inaudibly,† to earth and dust.
Then you see all, like from a mountain bed,
when you can drop your foliage duly,
and when your inner autumn gently, coolly,
will put its airy palpi on your head.
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 !"
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 drop 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, youíre 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, weíre tongue tied.
Words, failing† us, canít† 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.
Youíll never sell if you donít cheat
and if you cheat, youíre in for it,
such are the trade affairs.
Itís 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† ęappleĽ.***
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 canít escape the day of doom,
however, if you choose to bloom
no power can prevent you.
*** A horse with a mottled skin ( a dapple) in Russian is called ęa horse in applesĽ, i.e. a horse with apple shape spots- A.V.
I shall be 30 soon,† and Iím a hero
of parodies and rhymes that rail and scold.
With one accord they claim that Iím a bearer
of all the sins and vices in the world.
Some people tell me that I write to please,
in chase† of† cheap success and popularity.
They will be claiming shortly that I breathe
in chase of cheap success and popularity.
Some day, I know,† Iíll† die, and I will try
to do it quietly, it wonít be loud.
I hope that in that way Iíll† mollify
and soothe the crowd of the haggard and worn out.
I will not set a cunning goal of any kind.
But someone, in a rage, will say ,with clarity,† contemptuously hissing, that I died
in chase of cheap success and popularity.
and they have brought along new names.
They dash around, run and fuss
make enemies and kick up rows;
they cause discomfort and privation,
stir up† annoyance and vexation.
But they are ęleadersĽ. There are girls
awaiting them in rains and whirls,
and peer through the darkness,
collating their smartness.
But where are your downright foes ?
Itís hard to find them, I suppose.
Oh there they are ! Looking so friendly,
they smile and nod approval gently.
And where are your girls ? Yes, where ?
Itís raining, and† they should take care,
bewaring of† getting wet -
theyíll† have to nurse grandchildren yet.
Theyíve stolen all your enemies,
the gentle footsteps which you miss,
theyíve stolen someoneís whisper...
All that remains is† wisdom.
Why are you sad, you poor thing ?
Havenít you stolen anything
from anyone† without
even keeping† count ?
Young age is† larceny and bluff,
and thatís† the miracle of life :
thereís no evaporation,
thereís only transformation.
Do not be envious. Be wise.
Just spare the happy thievish guys.
No matter how they fool about,
they, too,† will be cleaned out.
New times will come some of these days,
and they will bring† along new names.
for it impedes your freedom, at your instance.
In fact, it hampers work and causes hindrance,
itís much too troublesome, a real bind !
But bear the good in mind , and give the due
to God and all around you for endearment.
Just try, and you will see it isnít hard to do,
and, incidentally, it all wonít† take a minute.
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,
thereís no salvation in the angry screams of† ęDown !..Ľ
nor in the zealous shouts of† ęLong live !..Ľ
Between the ęprosĽ and ęconsĽ, as† though between
the bullets flying by, obscure,
there is a third, detestable,† routine,
and itís the cowardly† highness of the ępureĽ.
††††††††††††††††††††† wiping away† our tears of lamentationyou are another cradle of Russiaís inspiration.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †like a thoughtless dasher,
it is impossible to be a poet here in Russia.
†for along with the habit to fight
I have time, or all times, in my body
like a seed, implanted inside.
I donít play looking timidly westward,
I donít worship the East, like blind,
I donít want to be doubly favoured
for itís 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 donít 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.
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
thereís somewhat of a bribe palmed off upon us.
If I were the greatest man, or say,
the finest and the worthiest human being,
I wouldnít have the privilege of living
without pain - for others, anyway.
Of course, Iíd like to have the best in life,
of course, Iíd 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
Iíll 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 peopleís troubles.
When our own grieves we havenít got
we can avail ourselves for those of others.
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 donít† stretch out idly on a mattress
exclaiming : ęIím pleased and satisfied !Ľ
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.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† can be a little off.
Itís crooked inside, oblique and bending.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †life is guilty of presenting
a pattern which is not† facile †enough.
Donít try to† straighten out your life :
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †by simple logic
itís an attempt to mend or mar, and, I should say,
a† rectilinear† path† between two distant objects
††††††††††††††††††††††† can be the longest way.
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 Almightyís 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 donít need any advice.
The bed-sheets theyíve 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 itís
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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†††††††††††††††††††††† †
No one has died. Nothing has vanished.
There is no past. Weíre in itís haze, and
there is no future. There is only present.
Tsar Alexander, the Liberator,
blown up by a disgraceful traitor
says sympathetically† to Gorbachev :
ęYou were lucky, after all, by Jove ...Ľ
July 3d, 1996
be lonelier than I am to-day.
With years I may get to know
that I donít 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 wouldnít† be double faced.
If only with ages people
wouldnít† cover my grave with spittle.
Somebody laughed behind the wall,
I stared at it, sad and lonely,
and in my arms I had my soul,
my ailing daughter, fading slowly.
They laughed behind the wall as though
they were making fun and teasing.
They laughed at me, and it was so
disgraceful, shameless and displeasing !
It was a feast. They seemed to be
relaxing, tired of dancing round.
In fact, they didnít laugh at me,
nor anyone as I found out.
They laughed and joked behind the wall,
( what they were drinking wasnít water ),
and they were not aware at all
of me, nor of my ailing daughter.
They were laughing ... I recall
I, too, would often laugh,† elated,
while somebody behind the wall
was fading , and† he couldnít help it !
Despaired by trouble, feeling grim,
about to give in, resigning,
he thought that I was teasing him
and even mocking and deriding.
Such is the world. Once and for all
itís been established, as it were :
when someone weeps behind the wall
we laugh rejoicing, free of care.
And thatís the reason why the world
is never fading, it appears, :
somebody laughs behind the wall
while weíre down shedding tears.
When broken -hearted, keep your soul
without sin, just show your lenience, -
if someone laughs behind the wall
donít take it as a jealous grievance.
Life seems to balance all, so donít
give way to envy,† - pain and torture,
for your misfortune is atoned
by someoneís lucky chance and fortune.
When you receive† the final call
and shut your eyes at the last minute
let people laugh behind the wall,
yes,† laugh, not cry and morn, I mean it !
Though animals do† have some† human features
they differ from humans, the snivelling creatures.
A dog doesnít 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 donít 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
ęWhatís then ?
†††††††††††††††††††††††† Whatís then, my dear ?Ľ
The bed was made for two of us,
and you were somewhat at a loss ...
And now youíre in the crowd,
look beautiful and proud;
your golden bang is haughty,
your high-heeled shoes are sporty.
Your sneering eyes
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† tell everyone
not to confuse you
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† with the one
†††††† still remembers
once been† beloved
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and loving.
But that is useless,
††††††††† you are from yesterday;††
forgotten,† like that fair
dishevelled bang of hair.
And how will you present it ?
You know I canít accept that
it was some other woman
I slept with in that room† then
who whispered in my ear :
ęWhatís then ?
†††††††††††††††††††††††† Whatís then, my dear ?Ľ
and pangs of conscience tantalize us so
when in somebodyís open, frank confession
we fail to see the shrewdness of a† foe.
And keeping vigilance like guardians of purity,
forgetting lessons of the past,† again
we take the restless innocent immaturity
for an unscrupulous ambition, with disdain.
Suspecting others isnít good, by any means.
A peopleís judge must† have a vision sense.
We hastily take friends for† bitter enemies,
which is much worse than taking foes for friends.
A little bag in hand, she looks at me;
her slanting eyes, a bit surprised, stare me out.
Her golden rings of curls appear to be
like golden question marks, as signs of doubt.
Here is her house, lumpy, dark and all.
A house with a pompous sullen glare.
I never went inside, as far as I recall,
and never will, thank God, and I donít care.
Outside her door we say our good-byes;
she kisses me, caressing, - such a dear !
But there is something in her quiet eyes
that causes pain and sorrow, mixed with fear.
I canít suppress, nor drown my fear in wine !
I know her womanís tricky ďgolden virtueĒ:
sheíll kiss you tenderly, caress you like divine
then shut he door and right away forget you.
With time the doors have made me wise, of course.
Theyíve taught me bitter† lessons of a demon.
Many a time behind the either side of doors
Iíve been so artfully betrayed by women.
I hear music play. Itís ďsol-faĒ scale, I gather...
Again some recollections fill my heart.
I know what you are like when weíre together.
I wonder what youíre like when weíre apart.
The fate of names is in itself the fate of times.
Fame has its ups and downs, as it were.
One canít cheat History by telling lies,
for Itís like mother, strict and fair.
No matter how they hide themselves in shells,
It sees all† human beings† through, entirely.
To no avail somebody tries to press
his fingers on Itís scale of justice, slyly.
No matter how they try to creep inside,
entrap It and by telling lies disgrace It,
eventually,† It sets the world of reason right
and puts all things in their proper places.
It puts to shame the liars in the end
and roots the dams of dogma out
although it takes too long to wait and see the ďendĒ,
and yet eventually† It† does come round.
Itís highest court of law is rigorous and straight.
It doesnít care a† damn about the grumbling moaner
when It restores the reputation of the great
distinguished names deserving honour.
Itís honest in the face of human race
knows what is what, by far not gullible;
majestically, It wipes the scribbled names
of the unworthy off the slabs of marble.
Iíd like to give you this information,
you, travelling in the rattling train of years:
††† ††††††††††††††††youíve chosen as your destination
is not to be found anywhere on earth.
Investigation has shown it clearly:
there is no
††††††††††††††††† such station as
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ďSecond YouthĒ.
Iíd 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.
Iíd 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.
Iíd like to inform you,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ladies and gentlemen :
if all that you have
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in your travelling bag
and some funny stories for merriment,
youíve reached Death Station,
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† with no way back.
Iíd 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,
†††††††††††††††††††††† will follow your rattling train...
is† dangerous. -† Donít 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 ďtrashĒ.
And never mind the fools that prattle:
their barbaric crazy rhymes,
pronounced hastily like babble,
show the internal truth at times...
Itís not a second time. Youíre suffering again.
Donít worry. Do some work.† More bravery !
Believe me, being the slave of suffering and pain
is not the most exciting form of slavery.
Itís not a second time, as I recall,
that youíve been so unfairly offended.
But why all this self-pity ?† After all,
itís he who humbles others is degraded.
You shouldnít put your torments out for show,
it is immoral. Put a ban upon it !
Itís not a second time, for all I know,
that you are suffering Ö
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why all this torment ?
whatís 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 allÖ
The mask of make-up which he wears
becomes his face once and for all.
I can hardly discern you. My eyes !
Iím amazed at what water can cause !
Weíre on opposite sides of the ice
separated by drifting floes.
Trees and houses are thin and light.
Swaying maples are pale and slim.
Voices, landing on water, slide
down the river along with the stream.
Blocks of ice moan and sink breaking way,
thin as ice you appear to be,
and the river is dragging away
bits of path between you and me.
He dragged His feet amidst the mammals
along the frozen glacier stream.
††††††† a lot of
†††††††††††††††††††† such big mammoths,
he was the last one, it would seem.
Gone through the mill and the nightmare
of storms and whirls,† He now gave in.
†††††††††††††† He found it hard to bear
the arrows stuck into His skin.
He tried to bellow, losing powers,
to make the echo turn the tide,
but He fell down, and the arrows
††††††††††††††††††††††††† deep into His side.
Somebody wished His skin devoutly,
while the distributor of meat
was working with a stone knife artfully
and competently cutting it.
If only they, so good at hunting,
knew that their progenies would find
the dreadful mammoths
††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††more exciting
than elephants, the humble kind,
and that His tusks, well tried and tempered
in struggle, as He forced His way,
His solid tusks, not yet surrendered,
would be exposed for show some day !
wouldnít wish it to a foe.
On the brink of losing patience,
I canít make it any more.
I am suffering from tears,
laughter, shortage and excess,
all is painful, it appears,
fame, obscurity, success...
But my sufferings† and torments,
do they have any importance
when the world turns out to be
like a sea of pains and sorrows
lying right in front of me ?
It is suffering, huge and hopeless,
from the light and night-dark tortures,
wishing it would not be homeless,
wishing joy and bread and salt.
In its torments thereís some weakness,
in its torments thereís some sweetness,
and some sanctity I witness
in the torments of the world.
to be sitting , absorbed in thought.
How can I make my sweetheart† happy?
Can I possibly do it or not?
Sheís 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 Iím 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 donít 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 canít make them happy, alas !
the reason for it is, I think,
that youíre incapable of loving,
and you are not worth anything.
I kiss your hand, so wet and warm, and
talk nonsense, chattering to you,
I feel excruciating torment
upon your fingers when I do.
You shake your ear-rings and tease,
in reading cards you take delight,
but deep at heart youíre all in tears,
the whole of you just screams inside.
You burst out sobbing for the moment
and I was taken by surprise:
I saw the unprotected torment
of your unchecked, impetuous eyes.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† which isnít true.
Iíve never been† courageous,
††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††and I know it.
I just believe that itís unworthy of a poet
to stoop to cowardice, as colleagues do.
Iím not a trouble maker of a kind
and never sapped
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† my country's† foundations.
I just ridiculed falsehood,
††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††And I spoke my mind
by writing poems, not denunciations.
I do defend the gifted men, it is true,
while wretched writers, the go-getters, †
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I disparage.
But that is something one just ought to do,
itís not a sign of bravery and courage.
The future generations, with disgrace,
combating vicious practices
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and devilry
††††††††††††††††††††† the oddity of days
†††††††††††††††††††††† was looked upon as bravery!
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 couldnít† 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†† ď His HighnessĒ,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †
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.
ďHeís not one of us Ė roared the boss -
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† heís a real go-getter.
Weíll turn him away, -
†††††††††††††††††††††††† thereís†† no room in the pack for a traitorĒ.
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,
ďI did it for you, stupid fools Ē -
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
Thereís no such a thing as defense
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
ďThose 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, itís stupidity,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† madness,† insanity.
They boasted that freedom
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† was their advantage and mercy,
but life in a pack
†††††††††††††††††††††† always tends to be somewhat† oppressiveĒ.
The wolf, on his way to the lights and the chimneys,
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† his journey†† proceeded :
ďIíd better be shot by a hunter
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† than bitten to death by my kindredĒ
Iíd better stop this talk about wolves and geese.
Iíve 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.
Youíve 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"
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 ďamotilladoĒ.
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 hadnít 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.
Theyíd 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, youíre a land
of grannies, pírhaps too strict but all-forgiving,
I noticed that the clothes they wore
and their turn-down collars were quite old fashionedÖ
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 ?
Iíd rather write for grannies such as these,
let others write their poems† for teenagers.
Click here to go to Yvgeny Yevtushenko Part I