Treasure Island

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

(18 July 1933 / Zima Junction, Siberia)

Dwarf Birches


We are dwarf birches.
We sit firmly, like splinters,
under the nails of frosts

and the Khanate of Eternal Freeze
engages in many shenanigans
to bend us down lower and lower.
Are you astonished, Parisian chestnuts?

Are you pained, haughty palms,
that we seem to have fallen low?
Are you embittered, pacesetters of fashion,
that we are all such Quasimodos?

While safe and warm, though,
you are pleased with our courage,
and you send us, pompous and mournful,
your moral support.

You figure, dear colleagues of ours,
that we are not trees but cripples.
Yet our leaves-though ugly-
seem progressive to you, for the frost.

Thanks a million. Alone, if you please,
we shall weather it under the sky,
even if savagely bent and twisted.
Without your moral support.

Of course, you command more freedom.
But, for all that, our roots are more strong.
Of course, we don’t dwell in Paris,
but we are valued more in the tundra.

We are dwarf birches.
We have cleverly made up our poses.
But all this is largely pretense.
Constraint bears the form of rebellion.

We believe, bent down forever,
eternal frost can’t last.
Its horror will yield.
Our right to stand upright will come.

Should the climate change, won’t
our branches at once grow
into shapes that are free?
Yet we’re now used to being maimed.

And this worries and worries us,
and the frost twists and twists us,
but we dig in, like splinters,
we-dwarf birches!


1966
Translated by Vera Dunham

Submitted: Friday, August 17, 2007
Edited: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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  • Bri Edwards (1/18/2013 8:49:00 PM)

    another pleasant to read poem. i was, until the end, thinking the nails of frosts was some reference to figurative fingernails or toenails. splinters can get pushed under THOSE nails. ouch! but then it dawned on me that they are figurative carpenter's nails...........correct? that makes more sense to me. (Report) Reply

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