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Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Rookie (18 July 1933 / Zima Junction, Siberia)

Weddings


Weddings in days of war,
false cheating comfort,
those hollow phrases:
'He won’t get killed...'
On a snowbound winter road,
slashed by a cruel wind,
I speed to a hasty wedding
in a neighboring village.
Gingerly I enter
a buzzing cottage,
I, a folk dancer of repute,
with a forelock dangling
from my forehead.
All spruced up, disturbed,
among relatives and friends
the bridegroom sits, just mobilized,
distraught.
Sits with Vera-his bride-
but in a day or two
he’ll pull on a gray soldier’s coat
and, wearing it, leave for the front.
Then with a rifle he will go,
tramping over alien soil;
a German bullet, perhaps,
will lay him low...
A glass of foaming home brew
he’s not able yet to drink.
Their first night together
will likely be their last.
Chagrined, the bridegroom stares,
and with all his soul in anguish
cries to me across the table:
'Well, go on, why don’t you dance! '
They all forget their drinking,
all fix me with goggling eyes,
and I slide and writhe,
beating a rhythm with my hooves.
Now I drum a tattoo,
now drag my toes
across the floor.
Whistling shrilly,
I clap my hands,
leap up near the ceiling.
Slogans on the wall fly past,
'Hitler will be kaput! '
But the bride
scalds
her face
with tears.
I’m already a wet rag,
barely catch my breath...
'Dance! '-
they shout in desperation,
and I dance again...
Back home, my ankles
feel as stiff as wood;
but from yet another wedding
drunken guests
come knocking at the door once more.
Soon as mother lets me go,
I’m off to weddings once again,
and round the tablecloth anew
I stamp my feet and bend my knees.
The bride sheds bitter tears,
friends are tearful too.
I’m afraid for everyone.
I’ve no desire to dance,
but you can’t not dance.


1955
Translated by George Reavey (revised)

Submitted: Saturday, August 18, 2007
Edited: Friday, November 18, 2011

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