Hello, Sunday. It is lunch time. I am reading another bruising love letter after digging for old poems in this place. No, the letter is not old, but the hurting is.

Wounds
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Arthur Boyars and Simon Franklin

To D.G.

I have been wounded so often and so painfully,
dragging my way home at the merest crawl,
impaled not only by malicious tongues—
one can be wounded even by a petal.

And I myself have wounded—quite unwittingly—
with casual tenderness while passing by,
and later someone felt the pain,
it was like walking barefoot over the ice.

So why do I step upon the ruins
of those most near and dear to me,
I, who can be so simply and so sharply wounded
and can wound others with such deadly ease?

From The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

Here: Yevtushenko. Always, on a rainy afternoon. Always, when I needed a good slap on the face. He has done this to me before: laid out my life in front of me, pointed out all the lies, all the little things I hold on to but break my heart a little each day. It’s tough, he tells me; he acknowledges how difficult it is, this living and loving, this being loved and leaving. He tells me this, in every poem. He grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me until everything that doesn’t matter has fallen out of my pockets, scattered on the floor. And all that is left, all that I should really care about, are taking deep breaths with me, clinging to my bones.

Breaking Up
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

I fell out of love: that’s our story’s dull ending,
as flat as life is, as dull as the grave.
Excuse me—I’ll break off the string of this love song
and smash the guitar. We have nothing to save.
The puppy is puzzled. Our furry small monster
can’t decide why we complicate simple things so—
he whines at your door and I let him enter,
when he scratches at my door, you always go.
Dog, sentimental dog, you’ll surely go crazy,
running from one to the other like this—
too young to conceive of an ancient idea:
it’s ended, done with, over, kaput. Finis.
Get sentimental and we end up by playing
the old melodrama, “Salvation of Love.”
“Forgiveness,” we whisper, and hope for an echo;
but nothing returns from the silence above.
Better save love at the very beginning,
avoiding all passionate “nevers,” “forevers;”
we ought to have heard what the train wheels were shouting,
“Do not make promises!” Promises are levers.
We should have made note of the broken branches,
we should have looked up at the smoky sky,
warning the witless pretensions of lovers—
the greater the hope is, the greater the lie.
True kindness in love means staying quite sober,
weighing each link of the chain you must bear.
Don’t promise her heaven—suggest half an acre;
not “unto death,” but at least to next year.
And don’t keep declaring, “I love you, I love you.”
That little phrase leads a durable life—
when remembered again in some loveless hereafter,
it can sting like a hornet or stab like a knife.
So—our little dog in all his confusion
turns and returns from door to door.
I won’t say “forgive me” because I have left you;
I ask pardon for one thing: I loved you before.

Ha!, I say. Ha! The world needs more Yevtushenkos.

“We can’t stand…”
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Albert C. Todd

We can’t stand sitting still.
We try, no holds barred, to be liked
by ourselves, friends, the opposition, and the authorities
(I no longer even speak about women).

Then we want to be liked by the country,
then the earth’s globe and the epoch,
then by our descendants, and, as a result
our own wives don’t like us.

From The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

This was copied by a stranger on the back of a paper wrapper, passed on to me by a friend during class. That was in 2004. The note said, “Of course I find you pretty,” but I don’t think it was for me. The poem though—I was meant to read it.

People
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them is not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private,
and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute.
These are private.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures
Of whom, essentially, what did we know?

Brother of a brother? Friend of friends?
Lover of lover?

We who knew our fathers
in everything, in nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
The secret worlds are not regenerated.

And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.

Here is another version, from a book I bought years later:

“No people are…”
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Albert C. Todd

To S. Preobrazhenski

No people are uninteresting.
Their destinies are like histories of planets.
Nothing in them is not particular,
and no planet is like another.

And if someone lives in obscurity,
befriending that obscurity,
he is interesting to people
by his very obscurity.

Everyone has his own secret, private world.
In that world is a finest moment.
In that world is a tragic hour,
but it is all unknown to us.

And if someone dies
there dies with him his first snow,
and first kiss, and first fight.
He takes it all with him.

Yes, books and bridges remain,
and painted canvas and machinery,
yes, much is sentenced to remain,
but something really departs all the same!

Such is the law of the pitiless game.
It’s not people who die, but worlds.
We remember people, sinful and earthly.
But what did we know, in essence, about them?

What do we know of brothers, of friends?
What do we know of our one and only?
And about our own fathers,
knowing everything, we know nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
Their secret worlds are not regenerated.
And every time I want again
to cry out against the unretrievableness.

This is from The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

Updated on 1 May 2013, to include the back story of how I came upon this poem, and why it was incomplete, as pointed out from a comment below (I have since added the missing stanzas). This is an old entry written almost seven years ago, so my deepest thanks to J. for bringing me back to this. I took this as an opportunity to include another version, which is from a collection of poems by Yevtushenko, which I own.

Desire, desire, desire. Thinking of you and listening to Suzanne Vega’s Caramel. Reading this poem:

Waiting
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

My love will come
will fling open her arms and fold me in them,
will understand my fears, observe my changes.
In from the pouring dark, from the pitch night
without stopping to bang the taxi door
she’ll run upstairs through the decaying porch
burning with love and love’s happiness,
she’ll run dripping upstairs, she won’t knock,
will take my head in her hands,
and when she drops her overcoat on a chair,
it will slide to the floor in a blue heap.

And, years later, I remember your name and think: old love, T. Old love.

“My love will come…”
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Albert C. Todd

            To B. Akhmadulina

My love will come,
will fold me in her arms,
will notice all the changes,
will understand my apprehensions.

From the pouring dark, the infernal gloom,
forgetting to close the taxi door,
she’ll dash up the rickety steps
all flushed with joy and longing.

Drenched, she’ll burst in, without a knock,
will take my head in her hands,
and from a chair her blue fur coat
will slip blissfully to the floor.

From The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

Updated on 1 May 2013. The first version was given to me A., who isn’t in my life now, but who mattered to me, once.

A helpless star, yes I think that’s what I am.

No, I’ll not take the half…
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by George Reavey

No, I’ll not take the half of anything!
Give me the whole sky! The far-flung earth!
Seas and rivers and mountain avalanches—
All these are mine! I’ll accept no less!

No, life, you cannot woo me with a part.
Let it be all or nothing! I can shoulder that!
I don’t want happiness by halves,
Nor is half of sorrow what I want.

Yet there’s a pillow I would share,
Where gently pressed against a cheek,
Like a helpless star, a falling star,
A ring glimmers on a finger of your hand.

From The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

The other day I was in the library sitting on the floor surrounded by books I can’t borrow (my load is full). I was copying this poem in a hurry, scribbling furiously. I didn’t know if I had all afternoon to do it.

Anyway:

Memento
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Arthur Boyars and Simon Franklin

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.

From The Collected Poems: 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1991.