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Half Measures by YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO

Half measures

can kill

when,

chafing at the bit in terror,

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we twitch our ears,

all lathered in foam,

on the brink of precipices,

because we can’t jump halfway across.

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Blind is the one

who only half sees

the chasm

Don’t half recoil

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lost in broad daylight,

half rebel,

half suppressor

of the half insurrection

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you gave birth to!

With every half-effective

half measure

half the people

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remain half pleased.

The half sated

are half hungry

The half free

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are half enslaved.

We are half afraid,

halfway on a rampage . . .

A bit of this,

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yet also half of that

party-line

weak-willed “Robin Hood”

who half goes

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to a half execution.

Opposition has lost

its resolution

By swashbuckling jabs

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with a flimsy sword

you cannot be half

a guard for the cardinal

and half

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a king’s musketeer.

Can there be

with honor

a half motherland

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and a half conscience?

Half freedom

is perilous,

and saving the motherland halfway

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will fail.

From “The Collected Poems, 1952-1990" by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Henry Holt: $29.95), edited by Albert C. Todd with the author and James Ragan. “Half Measures” was translated by Todd, who adds the note that “Robin Hood” in this text is the 17th-Century rebel and folk hero Stenka Razin. 1991 by Henry Holt and Co. Reprinted by permission.


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