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School in Beslan

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
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I am a drop-out of all the world's schools.

I am an exile from everywhere for somebody's sins.

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But I came to you, Beslan,

to learn from the ruins of your school.

Beslan, I know I am a bad father.

What, if I, myself, would see with my own eyes

the death of all my five sons,

only to survive into old age for my punishment?

Beslan, I understood that here I am not in an alien town,

when I groped a pulsating heart,

clumsily scratched by a pocket knife

on the charred, still hot, school desk.

In Russia, I was called a dynamite poet.

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Now, compared to dynamite, I am but a mosquito.

None of us could be justified

if something like here is possible.

Everything was jumbled up in Beslan:

horror, disorder, confusion,

fears, compassion, courage to save,

yet the incapability to save with no victims.

Looking at us, our past trembles.

Our child-future, becoming a naked target,

attempts to escape from our present

that shoots right between its shoulder-blades.

But mourning crescent moon embraced a mourning cross.

Between charred school desks and clouds of smoke,

Mohammed and Christ wander like brothers

picking up the children by little pieces.

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Our multi-named God, embrace all of us!

Help us survive, hot buried ingloriously

together with omni-religious children,

not saved by us....

When cattle-cars by Stalin's order were going to Kazakhstan,

stuffed with heaps of Chechens, lying on each other,

a future terror was born there

in the amniotic fluid protecting babies.

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There, like in their first cradle, becoming angry,

babies, squeezing themselves, trying to hide,

but the fragile heads felt through maternal wombs

the stocks of soldiers' rifles on their "soft spots".

These babies were not praying to Moscow

that threw them to the salty steppes,

so flat as if a white devil

erased from the earth all the Chechen mountains.

And the dagger-like moon

in the holes of their clay huts

secretly reminded them of Islam

among the deceptive Soviet slogans.

Then Yeltzin's plebeian arrogance

and the blitz-kriegian boasting of his generals

pushed Chechens to the first explosions -

and it became impossible to hide from war.

The black widow-kamikazes wear explosives on their breasts,

on their waists, on their necks in place of a necklace.

As more and more dead bodies are behind us,

the price of all living is cheaper and cheaper.

But vengeance doesn't help anything.

Multinamed God, save us from vengeance!

If there are still some living children here

let's not forget that only, sacred word "together".

Someone, who didn't save children - not a hero.

All of us are naked before a naked truth.

I am together with the charred children.

I am one of them. I, too, am from the school of Beslan.

......How the face of the sky changes,

when the darkness roared with tanks in Beslan,

and with a premonition of the end

in that school, in that basketball hoop

trembled explosives, hung by Stalin.

Translated by the author with Jeffrey Longacre

Poem courtesy of The Guardian
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