White Trees

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

The window gives out onto white trees.
The professor stands for a long time and stares out at the trees.
He stands for a very long time staring at the trees
and crumbling the chalk in his fingers.
It’s so simple, really —
the rule of division!
But he’s forgotten it — the rule of division!
Forgotten —
imagine —
the rule of division.
A mistake!
On the board!
We’re all sitting somehow differently today,
looking and listening differently,
impossible for things not to be different now,
we don’t need to have that spelled out for us.
The professor’s wife just left him.
We don’t know
where she went
We don’t know
why she left
We just know
that she left.
In his rumpled old-fashioned suit,
in his as always rumpled and old-fashioned suit,
as always, yes, rumpled and old-fashioned,
he goes down to the cloakroom
and for a long time pats his pockets for his claim stub:
“What the devil?
Where’s that stub?
Could it be I
never took it from you?
Where could it have got to?”
Rubs a hand across his forehead.
“Ah, here it is! ...
Oh well,
I’m getting old, as you can see,
no, not a word, Miss Masha,
I’m getting old.
What can you do? —
getting old.”
The sounds float up to us —
the downstairs door creaks after him.
The window gives out onto white trees,
beautiful tall white trees,
but our eyes aren’t on the trees now,
they watch the professor in silence.
He steps outside,
somehow defenselessly ungainly,
I’d say —
dead-tired ungainly,
out into the snow, falling softly in the stillness.
He’s already turning white as the trees himself,
white as the trees,
white all over,
and in a moment
so white
that our eyes can no longer make him out.

Translated by Doug Robinson

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