A F T E R W O R D S
PEN AT PENN
February 14, 1991
After words that Vargas Llosa & Oviedo said,
the Russian loomed up suddenly on stage--
quite tall & gaunt, with ruddy face & hair,
a raunchy tie of orange-red set off against
the jacket's camel hue--to take possession
of the honored guest and of our ears.
At dinner, Yevtuchenko rambled on and on.
Directing his accented twang to Mario's face,
the table-hopping voice curtailed all speech
but his, its so-so Spanish nurtured years ago
in Castro's Cuba and Bolivia's heights,
where he had haunted Che Guevara's path.
Tyrant of the banquet table all night long,
he soon insisted that we clear away our talk
like dirty dishes and listen only to his voice
declaim a poem (in Spanish) he had written down
in honor of the Comandante's savage death
that fateful day when hunters felled their prey.
"A la izquierda, siempre a la izquierda," said
as he ranted from my right (his left, of course),
made his impassioned utterance first rise then fall
like the Bolivian hills where Che Guevara died.
The leftist words he'd spoken to the captors then
had nearly cost the Russian poet his own life.
Emphatic in recounting that old death, Yevgeny
placed Guevara's corpse where plates had been
(a somber Valentine) in front of dinner guests.
(A tired Vargas Llosa had retired to bed by then
and was not forced to witness how surrealistically
a fatuous symbiosis was attempted on that night.)