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  • The Heritage of Russian Verse. Introduced and edited by Dimitri Obolensky

The Tram that Lost its Way

Заблудившийся трамвай

I was walking down an unfamiliar street, when I suddenly heard crows croaking, the sound of a lute, and distant peals of thunder — a tram was flying past me.

How I managed to jump on to its step was a mystery to me even in broad daylight it left behind a trail of fire in the air.

It rushed on like a dark, winged storm, it lost its way in time's abyss... «Driver, stop! Stop the tram-car at once!»

Too late! We had already skirted the wall, dashed through a palm-grove, and clattered over three bridges across the Neva, the Nile, and the Seine.

And, flashing past the window, an old beggar threw a searching glance after us — it was, of course, the same one who died in Beirut a year ago.

Where am I? In reply my heart beats so languidly and apprehensively: «Do you see the station where you can buy a ticket for the India of the Spirit?»

A sign-board... The letters, suffused with blood, spell «green-grocer»: here, I know, instead of cabbages and swedes they sell dead heads.

The executioner, in a red shirt and with a face like an udder, chopped off my head, too; it lay together with the others here in this slippery box, right at the bottom.

In the side-street there is a wooden fence, a house with three windows and a grey lawn... «Driver, stop! Stop the tram-car at once!»

Mashen’ka, it was here that you lived and sang, and wove a carpet for me, your betrothed. But where are now your voice and your body? Can it be that you are dead?

How you moaned in your room, while I, my hair powdered, went to present myself to the Empress, and never saw you again.

Now I understand — our freedom is but a light that breaks through from another world; people and shadows stand by the entrance to the planets' zoo.

And all at once a sweet and familiar wind begins to blow, and beyond the bridge a rider's hand in an iron glove and two hooves of his horse are flying towards me.

Like a true stronghold of Orthodoxy, St Isaac's dome is etched on high; there I shall have a service of intercession celebrated for Mashen’ka's good health, and a requiem for myself.

But still my heart is for ever filled with gloom, it is difficult to breathe, and painful to live... Mashen’ka, I never knew that it was possible to love and grieve so much.

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