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The Streetcar That Lost Its Way

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While walking down a strange street
I suddenly heard the cawing of crows,
Distant thunder, and the tones of a lute —
Here came a streetcar flying past.

How I managed to leap to its step
Is beyond me — even in the bright
Daylight it spewed behind itself
In the atmosphere a trail of fire.

It moved forth like a dark, winged storm,
This streetcar losing itself among
The depths of time — "Conductor, stop!
Conductor, stop this car at once!"

Too late. By now we had already
Rounded the wall, crossed through a grove
Of palms, and thundered across three bridges
Over the Neva, the Nile, the Seine.

Then, his face flashing by outside,
An old bum peered in through the window —
He was, of course, the one who died
In Beirut just a year ago.

Where is this? Answering, my heart
Beats listless yet anxiously:
"Is this the station where you buy
Your way to the India of the Soul?"

A billboard: drawn in blood, the letters
"Grocer's"; here, I know, instead
Of cabbages and rutabagas
One may purchase lifeless heads.

And then the executioner,
In red shirt, with face like an udder,
Chopped off my head: it lay with others
In this slimy box, just at the bottom.

Down the alley, a wooden fence,
a House with three windows, and a gray lawn.
"Conductor, stop the car at once!
Conductor, stop the streetcar!"

Mashenka, here you lived and sang,
Wove rugs for me, whom you would wed.
Where is your body, the voice that sang?
Is it possible you are dead?

How you wept inside your room,
While I, with powder in my hair,
Went off the present myself to the Empress,
Adn never beheld you again.

Now I see it all: Our freedom
Is just a small ight breaking through
From another world: people and shadows
Loiter by the gate to the planets' zoo.

A lush, familiar wind begins
To blow, and beyond the bridge, the hand
Of a rider in a glove of iron
And two horses's hooves come flying on.

The great stronghold of Orthodoxy,
St. Isaac's dome, commands the sky.
A prayer of intercession for Mashenka,
Her health; a requiem for me.

But still my heart is always shadowed;
It's hard to breathe; it hurts to live.
Mashenka, I never thought that one could
Have such love, or feel such grief.

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