Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Rookie (18 July 1933 / Zima Junction, Siberia)

Black Bandillera Poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko


The flower of a fighting toro
is mourning, affixed since birth.
The path of a fighting toro
is the arena, and later the scales.
If condemned by nature
to death by the sword,
remember-the shrewd cowardice of the fox
for the bull is not ceremony.
No way out, old chap.
One must die properly.
One must die excellently
to intimidate enemies.
After the fight all the same
someone by custom
will mark a sign with chalk:
'Such and such number of kilograms.'
A carcass goes by kilograms.
Courage is measured in grams.
A carcass goes for meat.
Courage goes against the pricks.
It’s foolish to be daring, if
it’s immaturity of the mind.
It’s foolish to be a coward, if
you’re surrounded anyway.
Why fuss in the arena?
You’re a fine little bull.
Why pretend to be lame?
Your legs are still strong.
Hey, you clumsy malingerer...
Some were stronger than you-
in the end they divide up everyone
on hooks in the meat shop.
Fling yourself shabbily to meet
the hungering band-or else
for the crowd’s pleasure
the slippery bandilleros will thrust
black banderillas,
black banderillas
like flares of shame,
into the nape of your neck.
Fool, what’s there for you to win
in a miserable game with rogues? !
Those afraid of the fight
are not suited for the corrida.
Scraggy, streetwalker-cows
will lure you from the arena
with delicate little bells,
well, and then under the knife.
Since it all ends anyway,
let it end in a sweat.
Let the butchers’ ballet dancers
huff and puff and dance.
Be a real toro!
Don’t lower yourself to the level

of this crowd made up of
nothing but cowardly bulls.
Have they given many grams
of courage to the world?
And the black banderillas,
the black banderillas
graze the walls,
blinds, and door frames,
plunged into jackets
like trembling skin.

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

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