Breaking Up by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Here: Yevtushenko. Always, on a rainy afternoon. Always, when I needed a good slap on the face. He has done this to me before: laid out my life in front of me, pointed out all the lies, all the little things I hold on to but break my heart a little each day. It’s tough, he tells me; he acknowledges how difficult it is, this living and loving, this being loved and leaving. He tells me this, in every poem. He grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me and shakes me until everything that doesn’t matter has fallen out of my pockets, scattered on the floor. And all that is left, all that I should really care about, are taking deep breaths with me, clinging to my bones.
I fell out of love: that’s our story’s dull ending,
as flat as life is, as dull as the grave.
Excuse me—I’ll break off the string of this love song
and smash the guitar. We have nothing to save.
The puppy is puzzled. Our furry small monster
can’t decide why we complicate simple things so—
he whines at your door and I let him enter,
when he scratches at my door, you always go.
Dog, sentimental dog, you’ll surely go crazy,
running from one to the other like this—
too young to conceive of an ancient idea:
it’s ended, done with, over, kaput. Finis.
Get sentimental and we end up by playing
the old melodrama, “Salvation of Love.”
“Forgiveness,” we whisper, and hope for an echo;
but nothing returns from the silence above.
Better save love at the very beginning,
avoiding all passionate “nevers,” “forevers;”
we ought to have heard what the train wheels were shouting,
“Do not make promises!” Promises are levers.
We should have made note of the broken branches,
we should have looked up at the smoky sky,
warning the witless pretensions of lovers—
the greater the hope is, the greater the lie.
True kindness in love means staying quite sober,
weighing each link of the chain you must bear.
Don’t promise her heaven—suggest half an acre;
not “unto death,” but at least to next year.
And don’t keep declaring, “I love you, I love you.”
That little phrase leads a durable life—
when remembered again in some loveless hereafter,
it can sting like a hornet or stab like a knife.
So—our little dog in all his confusion
turns and returns from door to door.
I won’t say “forgive me” because I have left you;
I ask pardon for one thing: I loved you before.