For Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko passed away this morning, in Tulsa, where I had the enormous privilege of being his student. A favorite of his poems, translated here by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi:

 

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.