Half measures

can kill


chafing at the bit in terror,

we twitch our ears,

all lathered in foam,

on the brink of precipices,

because we can’t jump halfway across.

Blind is the one

who only half sees

the chasm

Don’t half recoil

lost in broad daylight,

half rebel,

half suppressor

of the half insurrection

you gave birth to!

With every half-effective

half measure

half the people

remain half pleased.

The half sated

are half hungry

The half free

are half enslaved.

We are half afraid,

halfway on a rampage . . .

A bit of this,

yet also half of that


weak-willed “Robin Hood”

who half goes

to a half execution.

Opposition has lost

its resolution

By swashbuckling jabs

with a flimsy sword

you cannot be half

a guard for the cardinal

and half

a king’s musketeer.

Can there be

with honor

a half motherland

and a half conscience?

Half freedom

is perilous,

and saving the motherland halfway

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.