Friday, February 21, 2014

Babi Yar

By Yevgeny Yevtushenk

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
          Dreyfus.
The Philistine
          is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
                       Beset on every side.
Hounded,
          spat on,
                       slandered.

Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols in to 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 m e aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
                               'Beat the Yids. Save Russia!'
Some grain-marketer beats up m y mother.
O my Russian people!
                              I know
                                     you
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 antisemites—
                                      without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!

I seem to be
                            Anne Frank
transparent
                           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—
                                            tenderly
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 grey.
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
                                  thunder
when the last antisemite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all antisemites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am
                 a true Russian!

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