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A poem to end the year

Yevtushenko older1932-2017 Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1932-2017) was a charismatic, internationally known Russian poet, actor, director and political activist.  This is a translation by Boris Dralyuk of one of Yevtushenko’s poems.  It came to mind because as the year winds down, many people, including me, struggle with the bittersweet, emotionally loaded nature of the holidays.  We may love the lights and decorations, the get-togethers and presents, but we also miss the loved ones we will never see again.  I miss my parents, who both loved Christmas, intensely.  I honor them by baking Mom’s holiday cookies, putting old family ornaments on my tree, and looking at photos of Christmases past. But none of that negates their absence.

This poem is about how each person is irreplaceable, no matter how quiet or anonymous a life they may have led.

 

There are no boring people in the world

There are no boring people in this world.

Each fate is like the history of a planet.

And no two planets are alike at all.

Each is distinct – you simply can’t compare it.

 

If someone lived without attracting notice

and made a friend of their obscurity –

then their uniqueness was precisely this.

Their very plainness made them interesting.

 

Each person has a world that’s all their own.

Each of those worlds must have its finest moment

and each must have its hour of bitter torment –

and yet, to us, both hours remain unknown.

 

When people die, they do not die alone.

They die along with their first kiss, first combat.

They take away their first day in the snow…

All gone, all gone – there’s just no way to stop it.

 

There may be much that’s fated to remain,

but something – something leaves us all the same.

The rules are cruel, the game nightmarish –

it isn’t people but whole worlds that perish.

Remember what made you happy…

beach library
London book benches

Advice I came across years ago that I find useful: think back to what made you happy as a child, say eight years old. When you feel overwhelmed by grownup obligations, these memories can help you focus on simple pleasures you may be neglecting that feed your soul.

My eight-year-old self loved books, animals, smart friends, the ocean, holidays of all kinds, writing and drawing, including making little illustrated books for my family. No surprise that I live on the coast of Maine, an animal lover, avid reader, writer and yes, publisher of books for the fun of it, not for profit. I still love holidays and playing with like-minded friends. If too much of what you were drawn to and made you happy as a child is missing from your busy adult life, perhaps you can find those uncomplicated pleasures again and be nourished by them.

On the theme of books and their importance: here’s a beach library, and examples from a clever project in London where bus stop benches are decorated as famous books.