Eat Stay Read Do Listen

THE OTHER

St Petersburg
old/vintage tram at night, St Petersburg

The stray tram



Walking an unfamiliar street,
Of a sudden I heard ravens cawing
And the sounds of lutes and distant thunder -
In front of me a tram was flying.

How I jumped onto the footplate
Was a mystery to me,
It scored the air with a trail of fire
Even in the light of day.

A dark winged storm, it rushed
And lost its way in the abyss of time …
Stop, conductor, stop
The carriage right now.

Too late. We had already turned the corner,
shot through a grove of palms,
Across the Neva, the Nile, the Seine,
We thundered over three bridges.

And, appearing briefly at a window,
An old pauper threw us a look
Of curiosity - of course, that very same
who died in Beirut a year back.

Where am I? Languid and troubled,
My heart beats in reply:
You see the station at which you can
Buy a ticket to India of the Soul?

A shop sign… blood-filled letters
Say: Green; I know that here
Instead of cabbage and turnip,
Dead heads are for sale.

In a red shirt, with a face like an udder,
The executioner cut my head off too.
It lay with the others
In a slippery box, here, on the very bottom.

And in the side-street a plank fence,
A house three windows wide, a grey patch of grass…
Stop, conductor, stop
The carriage right now!

Mashenka, here is where you lived and sang,
And wove a rug for me, your beloved,
But where are your voice and body now,
Can you really be dead!

How you sighed in your chamber,
But I with powdered pigtail
Went to be presented to the Empress
And never saw you again.

Now I understand: our freedom
Is merely light which strikes from over there,
People and shades stand at the entrance
To the zoological garden of the planets.

And immediately there's a wind familiar and sweet,
And beyond the bridge flying towards me
The horseman's hand in iron glove
And the two hooves of his mount.

Faithful stronghold of Orthodoxy,
St Isaac's is inscribed on high,
There I'll offer prayers for the health
Of Mashenka and a requiem for me.

And still my heart is forever heavy,
And it's difficult to breathe and painful to live…
Mashenka, I never thought
That it's possible so to love and grieve.