Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Rookie (18 July 1933 / Zima Junction, Siberia)

Irpen - Poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Irpen is the memory of
the south and summer...
-B. Pasternak


I once promised so much to you,
and I can give you nothing-
I made you poor.
I promised you us in the blue, in the foliage,
on green grass,
head to head,
cool cherries on each cheek,
and tranquillity that smells lazily of hay.
We wanted to come to Irpen,
languid and half asleep,
here on that precipice or tree stump,
the exquisite fugitive wrote
of gillyflowers and forest
when he fled here...
But today there is no escaping,
as from a tribunal,
out of shame for history.
Clouds burst endlessly,
washing away all hope of peace and comfort
for you and me,
in the blue and foliage,
on green grass,
head to head...
The toadies swill their borscht,
their bellies growling.
A prominent critic approaches
who barely reaches my shoulders,
but nevertheless he pats me on them:
'Right now you’re just how
I’ve always wanted you.
You haven’t swallowed the bait of flattery,
and on civic issues you’ve come out strong...'
In your eyes I see contempt and shame.
By his praise
I’m destroyed for you.
Don’t believe it-
I’m not that way,
I’m not that way,
I’m not that way!
I’m simply smashed to splinters,
like a raft in a flood.
That critic lies.
Don’t listen to nonsense!
He just likes the chips that fly off me,
but not me!
But you say:
you’re just that way.
You’re not a raft,
but the pampered fruit of the age,
everyone’s favourite,
a model son...'
and your beautiful glance is unbearably cruel.

You say,
the epoch is a blood mother to me.
Could a mother maim
and break?
Like a horse,
they harnessed me with a collar,
and beat me with a whip,
grinning to boot.
But today they lavishly pass me gingerbread.
Every piece scars me
like a whip.
The raw autumn mist clings like a sucking swamp.
The toadies gloomily play dominoes.
The countryside hungers,
woods become scarce,
yet cosmonauts are flying to the heavens!
I’ve impoverished you even more terribly-
I’ve impoverished you with my soul.
Forgive me, that I promised you so much.

Translated by Albert C. Todd and James Ragan

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, August 18, 2007

Poem Edited: Friday, November 18, 2011

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