This one goes out to John and Oksana and the many thousands now reclaiming the streets of Moscow: a song not meant for one realm only, but for those in every age grappling with the brute and fearful forces of power.
It was somewhere here that Mandelshtam came walking A gray and greasy Pravda in his hands Where Stalin decreed an end to execution Now that all was fair and cheerful in the land.
How may we die? he asked, but knew the answer: The secret shot, the night-blow to the skull Your Dante torn from you by confiscation The stone gaze of the great Assyrian bull
Kievskaya, Savyolovskaya Marking off the stations of the cross Kurskaya, Lyubyanka The gates swing open and the world is lost
We all know how to die, how should we live then? He had this answer too, in a few clean lines: Warm bread, sharp knife, some string to tie your bundles When they make you drink down exile's bitter wine
This wisdom was not his, it was much older From the Roman poet trapped on the Black Sea shore Where a decree forged like a horseshoe out of iron Had cast him down and chained him to the floor
Smolenskaya, Belorusskaya, Marking off the stations of the cross Taganskaya, Rimskaya The gates swing open and the world is lost
It was somewhere here that Mandelshtam was walking Pacing out the rhythm of a poem To be handed down from one Rome to another Like an ancient, broken, ever-golden coin
Barrikadnaya, Arbatskaya Marking off the stations of the cross Kitai-gorod, Oxotny Ryad, The gates swing open and the world is lost