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The Lost Tram

Заблудившийся трамвай

I was walking down an unfamiliar street,
and suddenly I heard the caws of crows,
and distant thunder, and a ringing lute:
a tram flew by, before my eyes.

Just how I ran onto its running board
remains a mystery.
The tail it trailed, even in daylight,
was firebird-fiery.

It raced on like a dark and winged whirlwind,
adrift in time’s abyss...
Stop, tram-driver,
Stop this tram at once.

Too late. We’ve turned the corner,
glided through a palm-oasis,
and rocked our way across three bridges –
the Neva, the Nile, the Seine.

Slipping past the window, an ancient beggar
threw us a searching stare –
the beggar who died in Beirut, of course,
only last year.

Where am I? Languid, anxious,
my heart beats in response:
‘Look – it’s the station! They’re selling tickets
to India of the Soul – depart at once!’

A sign… It announces in blood-swollen letters:
‘Greengrocer.’ I know that instead
of cabbage heads, swedes and rutabagas
they sell the heads of the dead.

The executioner, with a face like an udder,
red-shirted, stout as an ox,
has chopped off my head. Along with the others,
it lies at the bottom of a slippery box.

On a side street, a house of three windows,
a fence made of boards, greying grass...
Stop, tram-driver,
Stop this tram at once.

Mashenka, you lived and sang here.
Here’s where you wove me a carpet.
Where are they now – your voice, your body?
Dearest, are you truly among the dead?

O how you moaned in your chamber,
while I, in a powdered wig, your groom,
went to present myself to the Empress –
never to glimpse you again.

I’ve grasped it at last: our freedom
is only a light pulsating from far –
people and shadows stand at the entrance
to the zoo of the wandering stars.

A sweet and familiar wind, of a sudden,
and over the bridge, flying my way –
a horseman’s hand in a glove of iron,
and two great hooves, raised to the sky.

Steadfast stronghold of Orthodoxy,
St. Isaac’s spire is etched on high.
Prayers must be sung for Mashenka’s health
and a memorial service for me.

And still, my heart is forever sullen.
It’s hard to breathe, and it hurts to live...
Mashenka, I could never have known
of such a love, of such a grief.

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