Yevgeny Yevtushenko
The City of Yes and the City of No "My love will comeÖ" Perfection Uncertainty Goodbye Our Red Flag I love you more than Nature Patchwork Quilt Back to Russian Index


The City of Yes and the City of No

I am like a train
		   rushing for many years now
between the city of Yes
                              and the city of No.
My nerves are strained
                                like wires
between the city of No
                           and the city of Yes.

Everything is deadly,
                           everyone frightened, in the city of No.
Itís like a study furnished with dejection.
In it every object is frowning, withholding something,
and every portrait looks out suspiciously,
Every morning its parquet floors are polished with bile,
its sofas are made of falsehood, its walls of misfortune.
Youíll get lots of good advice in it -- like hell you will!--
not a bunch of flowers, or even a greeting.
Typewriters are chattering a carbon copy answer:
"No--no--noÖNo--no--no. No--no--no."
And when the lights go out altogether,
the ghosts in it begin their gloomy ballet.
Youíll get a ticket to leave Ė- like hell you will!--
 to leave the black town of No.

But in the town of Yes--
                             lifeís like the song of a thrush.
This townís without walls--
                                    just like a nest.
The sky is asking you to take any star
                                  you like in your hand.
Lips ask for yours, without any shame,
softly murmuring:
                               "Ah--all that nonsense!"
And in no one is there even a trace of suspicion,
and lowing herds are offering their milk,
and daisies, teasing, are asking to be picked,
and wherever you want to be, you are instantly there,
Taking any train, or plane, or ship that you like.
And water, faintly murmuring, whispers through the years:
"Yes--yes--yes. Yes--yes--yes. Yes--yes--yes."
To tell the truth, the snag is itís a bit boring at times,
to be given so much, almost without any effort,
in that shining multicolored city of Yes.

Better let me be tossed around--
                                  To the end of my days,
between the city of Yes
                           and the city of No!
Let my nerves be strained
                                like wires
between the city of No
                                And the city of Yes!

1963
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
From "Bratsky Station and other new poems" 1966
Translated by Tina Tupikina-Glaessner, Geoffrey Dutton,
and Igor Mezhakoff-Koriakin

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I LOVE YOU MORE THAN NATURE

I love you more than nature,
because you are nature itself.
I love you more than freedom,
because without you freedom is prison.

I love you incautiously,
like an abyss Ė not a groove.
I love you more than possible,
and more than impossible too.

I love you timelessly, tirelessly
even being drunk, being rude.
I love you more than myself
I love you more than only you.

I love you more than Shakespeare,
more than all bookish wisdom
even more than all music,
because you are music and book.

I love you more than glory of fame, --
even glory of future times.
I love you more than my Motherland,
because my Motherland is you.

Are you unhappy?  About what do you complain?
Donít bother God with your prayers and petitions.
I love you more than happiness.
I love you more than love.

1995
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
From PRE--MORNING 1996
Translated by Gay Hoaglund 
with Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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GOODBYE OUR RED FLAG

Goodbye our Red Flag.
You slipped down from the Kremlin roof
                                                   not so proudly
						   not so adroitly
As you climbed many years ago
				      on the destroyed Reichstag
Smoking like Hitlerís last fag.
Goodbye our Red Flag.
You were our brother and our enemy.
You were a soldierís comrade in trenches,
		        you were the hope of all captive Europe,
but like a red curtain you concealed behind you
							the Gulag
Stuffed with frozen dead bodies.
Why did you do it,
			our Red Flag?
Goodbye our Red Flag.
				Lie down.
						Take a rest.
We will remember all the victims
deceived by your Red sweet murmur
that lured millions like sheep
			            to the slaughterhouse.
But we will remember you
			         because you too were
						           no less deceived
Goodbye our Red Flag.
				Were you just a romantic rag?
You are bloodied
		     and with our blood we strip you
							  from our souls.
Thatís why we canít scratch out
				      the tears from our red eyes,
because you so wildly
		            slapped our pupils
				       with your heavy golden tassels.
Goodbye our Red Flag.
			   Our first step to freedom
we stupidly took
		    over wounded silk,
and over ourselves,
			divided by envy and hatred.
Hey crowd,
	     do not trample again in the mud
the already cracked glasses
				of Doctor Zhivago.
Goodbye our Red Flag.
			   Pry open the fist
that imprisoned you
			trying to wave you in Civil War,
when scoundrels try to grab
 				your standard again,
or just desperate people,
			      lining up for hope.
Goodbye our Red Flag.
You float into our dreams.
Now you are just
		    a narrow red stripe
					   in our Russian Tricolor.
In the innocent hands of whiteness,
In the innocent hands of blue
maybe even your red color
				can be washed free of blood.
Goodbye our Red Flag.
				Be careful, our Tricolor.
Watch out for the card sharks of flags
		lest they twist you around their fingers.
Could it be that you too
			     will have the same death sentence
					      as your red brother,
to be shot by foreign and our own bullets,
devouring like lead moths
			       your silk?
Goodbye our Red Flag.
In our naÔve childhood
			   we played Red Army Ė White Army
We were born in a country
				that no longer exists.
But in that Atlantis we were alive,
					we were loved.
You, our Red Flag, lay in a puddle
					in a flea market.
Some hustlers sell you
			   for hard currency:
						Dollars, Francs, Yen.
I didnít take the Tsarís Winter Palace.
			      I didnít storm Hitlerís Reichstag.
I am not what you call a "Commie."
But I caress the Red Flag
        			      and cry.

1992
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
From PRE--MORNING 1996
Translated by Albert C. Todd 
with Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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UNCERTAINTY

Self assurance is blissful, 
but uncertainty is venal.
In a flash it covers with thin ice
the soulís hidden ferment.

Iím superstitiously uncertain.
Concealing an innermost fright,
in some things Iím too intemperate,
some things too constrained and tight.

I repeat constantly to myself:
why, why do I lie to people,
why do I play at power,
when in reality I am powerless?!

What if suddenly they catch me, like a thief,
and I, for everyone already someone different,
a fraud, a cheat, and pretender,
go off with hands behind my back?!

And the thought of this wonít let
me dip my pen in inkÖ
Oh let me, God, be a poet!
Donít let me deceive people.

1962
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
From PRE--MORNING 1996
Translated by Albert C. Todd


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"My love will comeÖ"
      
           -- 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.

1956
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko  
From THE COLLECTED POEMS 1952-1990
Translated by Albert C. Todd

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PATCHWORK QUILT

Scrap
        by scrap
Granny put the quilt together for us
and to this day I remember the kindness
with which the quilt was endowed.
Patches gleamed with red,
                                      Like glowing coals,
and radiating gold,
                           Like the honeyed eyes of bears,
exhaled blue,
                  as do corn flowers in a field,
and darkened black,
                            like the tatters of night.
I didn't come to Siberia like the meteorite,
and was myself, in Zima's chimney corners,
sheltered from blizzards by a rainbow of patch-work,
and was myself, like a small patchwork,
                                                       all in tiny flowers.
Scrap
       by scrap
we somehow gathered Russia together,
sewing into her mighty scraps of melancholy
and into her strength
                            scraps of impotence.
False ideals ripped us asunder,
and without mercy,
                          senselessly mocking our homeland,
like a quilt,
                we tear our ideals into shreds.
And above the again ravished land,
as if once more at the beginning,
once more at the crossroads,
nothing but ashes of unending holocaust --
miserable scraps of banners and destinies.
Salvation will not come down from Moscow --
it will rise in the heartland
                                    together with wheat, potatoes and rye.
Salvation will be slow,
                               made of scraps
but the scraps will grow into each other.
Farewell, Empire!
                        Long live, Russia!
Rule Russia,
                 but only over yourself.
Amidst our clashes, shelter the children
with a destiny,
                     like Granny's quilt, made from patchwork.
To the gentle singing of the stove pipe,
I so want
             to press myself into Granny's patchwork,
so that she can sew Russia together anew
scrap
        by scrapÖ

1993 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
From PRE--MORNING 1996
Translated by Albert C. Todd

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Perfection

The wind blows gently, fresh and cool.
The porch is fragrant with damp pine.
A duck stretches its wings wide,
having just laid its egg.

And it looks like a faultless girl,
having laid in God's design,
a perfection of white roundness
on an altar of straw.

And above the muddy, thawing road,
above the moldering roofs of the huts,
the perfection of the disc of fire
rises slowly in the sky.

The perfection of the woods in spring
all shot through by the dawn,
almost disembodied, shimmers in mist
like the breath of the earth, all over the earth.

Not in the frantic shapes of new fashions,
not in shapes borrowed from others--
perfection is simply being natural,
perfection is the breath of the earth.

Don't torment yourself that art is secondary,
destined only to reflect,
that it remains so limited and lean,
compared with nature itself.

Without acting a part
look to yourself for the source of art,
and quietly and uniquely
reproduce yourself just as you are.

Be reflected, as a creation of nature
bending over a wall
draws the reflection of its face
up from the ice-ringed depths.

1963
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko  
From "Bratsky Station and other new poems" 1966
Translated by Tina Tupikina-Glaessner, Geoffrey Dutton,
  And Igor Mezhakoff-Koriakin
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October 13, 1999

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