Nikolay Zabolotsky
An Ugly Girl

Among the other children playing here,
she stands apart, just like the ugly duckling
An awkward shirt tucked in, her red hair buckling
Curls scattered wildly, falling to her ears
Her mouth is long, teeth crooked and unsightly
Her face not smooth, her body gangly slightly
A couple of kids, two lads as old as she’s,
Got bicycles from parents for their birthdays
The boys, forgetting dinner on this Thursday
Ignore her and ride bikes around the trees
She chases them, not resting for a moment
Another’s joy she feels just liker own
It languishes inside and wants to break out
The girl rejoices, laughing out loud
Entangled in the pleasure of the known
A trace of envy, or a sign of ill-will
This creature doesn’t bear within her head
So many things are novel. It’s a new thrill
To feel the passion others think is dead.
And I reject this feeling that’s been creeping
That there will be a dark day when she, weeping,
Sees to her horror that among her friends
She’s just the ugly duckling, nothing more
I want to think a heart is not a children’s toy nor,
Can it break at once. Instead, it bends.
I want to think that clear is the fire
That burns far down, deep inside her soul
That it alone will comfort and console
Lift up her every burden and not tire
And even if attractive she is not,
And she has nothing that can charm our senses,
An innocent grace is in her soul, untaught,
And every move she makes this grace enhances
And if it’s so, what’s beauty? Let’s decide.
And why for it do we construct a palace?
A chalice, holding emptiness inside,
Or burning flame that glimmers in the chalice?

Translated by Vadim Elenev


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