Ballad About False Beacons

We’ve been bewitched by countless lies,
by azure images of ice,
by false promises of open sky and sea,
and rescued by a God we don’t believe.
Like coppers rattling from a beggar’s plate
guiding lights have fallen on our days
and burned and died.
We’ve pressed our ship
a pilgrimage of nights toward such lights
as, always elusive, lured and tricked
the keel upon the rocks and ripped
the helmhold from the hand and lashed
the beggared palm to scraps.
Ice tightens at the bow and breath.
To dock, to dropp the anchor to its rest,
to drift (a dream!) on waters quieted
and calmed. We can’t. We’re after a mirage.
(The whiskered walrus brays; the sea salt thaws.
Again, we’re off!)
Raised on powdered milk, we’ll have no faith
in beacons any longer, nor mistake
real for fake, or waking for a dream.
Beacons can’t be trusted. Trust instead
the will of your own hand and head.
Again the captain waves his glass,
sights a beacon, turns and cries
'Helmsman! There’s a beacon. Are you blind? '
But Helmsman, with the truer eye
thinks mutiny and grumbles,
'A mirage.'

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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