The Ugly Girl

Among the other children playing,
She reminds me of a little frog.
Her skimpy blouse is tucked into her knickers;
Her gingery curls tumble in disarray
Wide mouth her teeth uneven,,
Her features harsh and ugly
The two little boys her own age,
Have been bought a bike each by their dads,
Today they're in no hurry for their lunch;
Oblivious of her they hare about the yard,
She runs behind them trying to keep up.
Their happiness she experiences
As her own, her aching heart explodes
With it and the girl shouts and laughs
With the sheer delight of living.

Of envy or malice, this little creature
Knows nothing yet. Everything for her
Is so immeasurably new, everything
Is so alive that's dead for others!
And as I look at her, I try
Not to think the day will come when she
Will realise with horror, sobbing, that
She is nothing but a poor plain little thing!
I'd like to think the heart's no plaything
To be broken in an instant just like that!

I'd like to think that the flame
Burning brightly deep within her
Will of it's own vanquish this pain
And melt the hardest stone!
Her features may possess no beauty,
Nothing to stir the imagination with
Still a youthful grace already
Informs her every movement.
And this being so, what's beauty then,
And why do men idolise it?
Is it a vessel containing nothing,
Or a fire burning brightly in that vessel?

Nikolai Zabolotsky
Translated by Daniel Weissbort
20th Century Russian Poetry
Selected by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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