Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1979
23 September, 2010
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1979

I MISS YOU, TBILISI


I miss you, Tbilisi,
And the twinkle of your lights

,   
I miss the thick of foliage
And the lightness of your shades,
Lace-like balconies around, 
Nestled over waterways.
Woman vending mellow produce,
Voicing loudly her sales.
And the beauty of the plainness
In the looks of curious girl,
Selling turkey in the corner -
Not with sadness, but a flare.
The cool in temples of the mountains,
Where a minute forever lasts,
Just as marble, aged

and veined,
You start harboring the past.
Pirosmani’s fellow tipplers,
Tired of drinking in the end,
Still inviting the guests inside,
Treating them to wine and bread.
I miss freethinking artists
And vast coterie of friends,
Chilly-looking town cobblers, 
Who are warm and sweet in fact.
Somewhere in secluded snack-bar,
In the painting on the wall
Bonaparte is standing graceful
With naked chest and mug of malt.
A sign has long been on the wall,
Which has bothered none at all:
‘Loud singing is forbidden’ -
‘Khashi’ lovers still agog.
I miss you, my Tbilisi,
And the houses almost gone,
Witty, daring wise-cracking,
Tuck-in, partying, having fun.     
I miss my pals and cronies 
Call for friendship, said and done,
Tamada - the drunk toast-master,
His face looks like reddened bun. 
I miss the Georgian poets,
Let them lay in peace and calm.   
They are freezing in the cold,
I would love to warm them up.
I miss the Georgian ladies,
Playing gingerly the game,
Crimson blizzard after brooming, 
Kurdish woman makes my day. 
I miss it as my home,
My Tbilisi of older days,
I miss her as a youngster
She has long, long run away.

Translated by Nugzar B. Ruhadze

 


We miss it all, but . . .


I wonder how many Russians would say today that they Miss Tbilisi, or anything that is Georgian. Who would’ve thought even in the wildest of his or her imagination that the nation which has produced poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, one of the best Russian friends of Georgia might politically qualify as number one enemy of this nation? They all missed Tbilisi and the Georgian means and ways, they all wanted to come back and have more fun, they all thought that Georgia was a haven for building friendships and making soul-mates, they all were eager to have something to do with this land of beauty and love. So what has happened? I have no quick and direct answer to this diabolically tricky question. I am not a political analyst of that magnitude, but I can still provide a simple answer on my personal level: Yevtushenko and other Russian intellectuals sincerely loved Georgia and liked almost everything about it, only they never bothered enough to look deeper into the soul and aspirations of this freedom-loving, peaceful and talented nation. There was something perfunctory in their attitude. Yevtushenko felt and wrote:  ‘Just as marble, aged and veined, you start harboring the past’, but he only harbored Georgia’s past, having not gone through its anguished dreams of freedom, its bruised body and hurt national conscience. But the blame is not only on the poet’s side. The Georgian intellectual elite has made many friendships with the Russian counterparts but most of them never bothered or had enough courage to stand up and say how we hurt in the last 200 years. Yes, there was closeness, even love, but what lacked profusely was a sense of serious consideration for our nation’s aspirations to freedom and wholeness. Most of it was fake and perfunctory. I believe that Yevgeny Yevtushenko truly missed Tbilisi, although I still think that none of them could get themselves rid of the high brow they were equipped with when dealing with Georgia. When I reread this poem I was moved to tears and translated it overnight – I could not simple detach myself from it. Every word of the Russian poet’s verse is saturated with what the title is pointing at – the sense of nostalgia, triggered in the poet by Tbilisi. Isn’t this wonderful and outstandingly humane?  Using this poem as a background for further thoughts of what had happened after, all seems to be so ugly and unfair! I am getting a bitter feeling that no other Russian poet will ever miss Tbilisi in the future. I wish this were not as cruelly true as it sounds here and now.

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