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The Lost Tram

Заблудившийся трамвай

A strange street, then crows
croaking, then the sound of a lute
and thunder crawling slow
from a distance — then a tram at my feet

And I leaped, somehow, and the railing
held, and I stood, dazed,
stupidly watching a trail
of fire streaking like sunrays.

Rushing like a storm with dark wings
the tram blundered and was lost
in time’s pit... “Driver, off!
Stop! This minute — listen!”

No. We’d run round die wall,
ploughed a palm grove, clattered
a Neva bridge, a Nile
bridge, a bridge on the Seine,

And seen for a second a beggar
watching with knowing eyes —
the beggar from Beirut, right,
the same: he died

Last year. Where am I? My heart
pumps languid fear: “Did you miss
the station? They sell tickets there
for the India of the Spirit.”

A sign... Bloody letters
spelling Grocer: better
than turnips or beets they sell
bleeding heads, severed.

The butcher with a face like an udder
and a red shirt takes my head
too and slops it in a box
of heads, at the bottom.

A side street, house with three windows,
wooden fence, a lawn...
“Driver, I need to get down
here, stop, this minute!”

Mashenka: you lived here, and sang,
and wove me a rug, and promised
to marry me. Body and voice
where are you? Not dead, not you?

You moaned in your room when I powdered
my hair to present myself
to the Empress. I never
saw you again.

I see: freedom for us
is light from another world;
men and shadows wait
at the gate of the planets’ zoo.

And then a sweet familiar
wind, and over that bridge
an iron glove and two hooves
rush toward me.

Saint Isaac’s dome on the sky
like God’s true hand:
let them sing for Mashenka
and mourn for me.

How can I breathe? It hurts
to live. My heart tears
itself. Mashenka, I never knew
how much love and sorrow we can bear.

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