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by Yevgeny Yevtushenko |

Epistle to Neruda

 Like a seasoned lion,
Neruda buys bread in the shop.
He asks for it to be wrapped in paper
And solemly puts it under his arm:
"Let someone at least think
that at some time
 I bought a book…"
Waving his hand in farewell,
like a Roman
 rather dreamily royal, 
in the air scented with mollusks, 
he walks with the bread through Valparaiso. 
He says:
 " Eugenio, look!
You see--
 over there, among the puddles and garbage,
standing up under the red lamps
stands Bilbao-with the soul
 of a poet -- in bronze.
Bilbao was a tramp and a rebel.
 they set up the monument, fenced off
by a chain, with due pomp, right in the center,
although the poet had lived in the slums.
Then there was some minor overthrow or other,
and the poet was thrown out, beyond the gates.
 they removed
 the pedestal
to a filthy little red-light district.
And the poet stood,
 as the sailor's adopted brother,
against a background
 you might call native to him.
Our Bilbao loved cracking jokes.
He would say:
 'On this best of possible planets 
there are prostitutes and politutes -- 
as I'm a poet,
 I prefer the former.'"
And Neruda comments, with a hint of slyness:
"A poet is
 beyond the rise and fall of values.
It's not hard to remove us from the center,
but the spot where they set us down
 becomes the center!"
I remember that noon,
as I tune my transistor at night, ny the window,
 when a wicked war with the people of Chile
brings back the smell of Spain.
Playing about at a new overthrow,
politutes in generals' uniforms
wanted, whichever way they could,
to hustle your poetry out of sight.
But today I see Neruda--
he's always right in the center
 and, not faltering,
he carries his poetry to the people
as simply and calmly
 as a loaf of bread.
Many poets follow false paths,
but if the poet is with the people to the bitter end,
like a conscience-
 then nothing
can possibly overthrow poetry. 

Translated by Arthur Boyars amd Simon Franklin

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko |


 Like a reminder of this life 
of trams, sun, sparrows, 
and the flighty uncontrolledness 
of streams leaping like thermometers, 
and because ducks are quacking somewhere 
above the crackling of the last, paper-thin ice, 
and because children are crying bitterly 
(remember children's lives are so sweet!) 
and because in the drunken, shimmering starlight 
the new moon whoops it up, 
and a stocking crackles a bit at the knee, 
gold in itself and tinged by the sun, 
like a reminder of life, 
and because there is resin on tree trunks, 
and because I was madly mistaken 
in thinking that my life was over, 
like a reminder of my life - 
you entered into me on stockinged feet. 
You entered - neither too late nor too early -
at exactly the right time, as my very own, 
and with a smile, uprooted me 
from memories, as from a grave. 
And I, once again whirling among 
the painted horses, gladly exchange, 
for one reminder of life, 
all its memories. 

Translated by Arthur Boyars amd Simon Franklin

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko |

Babi Yar

 No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone. 
I am afraid.
 Today I am as old in years 
as all the Jewish people. 
Now I seem to be
 a Jew. 
Here I plod through ancient Egypt. 
Here I perish crucified, on the cross, 
and to this day I bear the scars of nails. 
I seem to be
The Philistine 
 is both informer and judge. 
I am behind bars.
 Beset on every side. 
 spat on,
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
 a young boy in Byelostok. 
Blood runs, spilling over the floors. 
The barroom rabble-rousers 
give off a stench of vodka and onion. 
A boot kicks me aside, helpless. 
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies. 
While they jeer and shout,
 "Beat the Yids. Save Russia!" 
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother. 
0 my Russian people!
 I know 
are international to the core. 
But those with unclean hands 
have often made a jingle of your purest name. 
I know the goodness of my land. 
How vile these anti-Semites-
 without a qualm 
they pompously called themselves 
the Union of the Russian People! 
I seem to be
 Anne Frank 
 as a branch in April. 
And I love.
 And have no need of phrases. 
My need 
 is that we gaze into each other. 
How little we can see
 or smell! 
We are denied the leaves, 
 we are denied the sky. 
Yet we can do so much --
embrace each other in a darkened room. 
They're coming here?
 Be not afraid. Those are the booming 
sounds of spring:
 spring is coming here. 
Come then to me.
 Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
 No, it's the ice breaking ... 
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar. 
The trees look ominous, 
 like judges. 
Here all things scream silently, 
 and, baring my head, 
slowly I feel myself 
 turning gray. 
And I myself 
 am one massive, soundless scream 
above the thousand thousand buried here. 
I am 
 each old man 
 here shot dead. 
I am 
 every child
 here shot dead.
Nothing in me
 shall ever forget! 
The "Internationale," let it 
when the last anti-Semite on earth 
is buried forever. 
In my blood there is no Jewish blood. 
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites 
must hate me now as a Jew. 
For that reason
 I am a true Russian!