I was his stepson, not his son and yet
Though things were none too easy, I regret
That I did little for the one who brought
When, at the end, he sought
To put off death’s approach, it was for me.
So mother says, he asked.
“If only he,
If only my son came,” he would repeat.
“I know that I would soon be on my feet.”
I liked a poor old lady once, and said
I’d bring her sacks of bread, and stack her shed
With wood, and build a house for her – all this
When I grew up –
So many promises!…
I think I must have made them by the score,
The siege of Leningrad,
An open door…
I asked a sick and hungry man to wait,
I said I’d come,
and did –
A day too late!
A thousand roads behind me lie … I could
Have built that house today
And brought that bread – but they
Are here no more who of my help had need.
Make haste! Do not postpone a kindly deed!
©Alexander Yashin, 1958 (Translated by Irina Zheleznova)
Alexander Yashin (1913– 1968) was a Soviet writer associated with the Village Prose movement. He studied at the Gorky literary institute in Moscow where his book of poems, The Northern Maiden, was published in 1938. His long poem, Mother, followed in 1940. He was awarded the Stalin Prize (1950), for his poem Alena Fomina.