Living in a cottage
in Berkeley, so quiet, electricity buzzing in the walls kept me
awake, one night I was given a ticket to a performance by the great
Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
But a storm was brewing, and I only had a small motorcycle for
all night to electric poems hummed inside the walls.
Last night I finally
got to hear Yevtushenko read. Waving his arms histrionically,
his deep voice was weighted with centuries of suffering. Humorous,
too, when he spoke of growing old: "My wife is much younger
than me. Her exact age is a family secret."
1961, Yevtushenko published "Babii Yar," risking exile, or worse—
monument stands over Babii Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
I see myself now
a teenager, I recited "Babii Yar" to
friends, and its power is one reason
I became a poet. Tonight I remember the tremors from those words that ran through my
Sitting in the
audience, I tried to understand the thalamus is not only a relay station, it
is a rigorous checkpoint where arriving sensory signals are carefully
sorted, checked, and very selectively relayed to appropriate
cortical areas to compete for the soulful rhythms of his language, as I finally
completed that stormy night in Berkeley, 35 years ago.