26 February. A drunken mix, police and
soldiers, opened fire on the people.
Spilled brilliance on barrel and blade
Light crimson and prolonged.
In a musty barracks
the Volynsky Regiment prayed.
to the soldiers’ god,
kow-tow each hefty mono-brow.
Blood kindled, surging through temple.
With malice aforethought hands grip iron.
And the first,
he who ordered
“Shoot the hungry!” –
A bullet shut his mouth.
was cut short.
Yet not at a loss
the troops stormed into the city.
In our usual spot
by the Military Motor School
penned in by the barracks fence.
broken by doubts,
premonitions of fear and joy.
Window! From which
I see –
where the sky cuts
into palaces, jaggedly,
the eagle of autocracy
blacker than before,
All at once –
rushing to the streets.
Footfalls ring the pavement.
Noise of our steps assaults all ears.
And then from who knows where,
from the singing of the crowds,
from the bursting brass of the guardsmen’s trumpets
glowing through the dust
growing, an image
Wider and wider the wings unfurling.
More than bread hungered-for,
more than water thirsted-for,
here she comes!
Citizens, “take up your we–eapons!”
“To a-arms, citizens!”
Winged by banners
she flew up from the city’s gullet.
Bayonet-toothed she gnawed
the double-headed black imperial eagle.
Today a thousand years of ‘past’ are past.
Today the foundations of the world get re-jigged.
we’re re-cutting our cloth to suit our lives
to the last stitch.
It’s Day One of the Workers’ Deluge.
and re-make a topsy-turvy world!
Let the crowds reshape the sky, jewelled!
Let the fleet’s anger by sirens be signalled!
Woe to the two-faced eagle-foe!
Squashed in squares.
Curvetting in a Model ‘T’
outgunning, outrunning bullets.
Factory klaxons erupt into the city.
In the fog.
Street-rivers make river-mist.
Like laden barges caught in a swell,
our barricade bursts its banks
with the Marseillaise.
The first day’s blazing cannon-ball
whizzed past the dome of the Duma.
New dawn new frissons
new doubts bring delirious shudders.
I duffle-muffle myself against snipers.
in a greatcoat.
Buildings spit gunfire & shrapnel,
the city tsk-tsks.
The city starts burning.
Even they rise and fall,
Eventually sparks scatter.
fly the red flag, calling,
summoning Russia, glowing.
Brightly shine, O red-tongued orator!
Grasp the beams
of sun and moon,
vengeful fingers of thousand-armed Marat!
Death to the two-faced eagle-foe!
Break through the prison
flesh with bloodrusty claws riven
down, dropping, falling policemen.
Capital’s burning body hauls down its flag.
Searching through attics and garrets.
The moment’s nigh.
Crossing the Troitsky Bridge
crowded troops, from their barracks.
Creaks croak from foundation-bones.
One second! – and lacquered
from the Petropavlovsky Barracks
the fiery revolutionary flag flames.
Death to the two-headed eagle-foe!
Off with both heads
(so there’s no resurrection.)
Here it is!
Grasping as it goes – one last hope.
Gather these souls to your bosom!”
Joy enough to trouble eternity! Now
of a God?
our own beatified.
Why no singing?
do all souls march under Siberian cerements’ banner?
Glo-o-or-r-ry to us!
Whilst arms are kept on arms and fingers on triggers,
there’s a new order to live by.
New commandments on terrestrial tablets,
from our rather paler Sinai.
inhabitants of the earth,
see all earth’s inhabitants as kin.
in laboratories: brothers.
under the skin
brothers and sisters on the earth,
for life, fighters.
subject to our will. Our land.
Air – ours.
Ours that diamond-mine the stars.
And we’ll never,
tear our earth with shells,
pierce our sky with spears.
Whose evil broke the earth in twain?
Who raised smoke-plumes over butchery?
Or the sky above us all insufficiently blue?
In the last feuds the last cannon thunder,
in the last arsenals the last bayonets are made.
We’ll make them hand over their powder.
Give kids pomegranates not grenades.
It’s not cowardice clad in drab military grey,
nor the shouts of the have-nots;
the people thunder like thunder today:
– I believe
in the greatness of human hearts!
It rises above the swirling battlefield-dust,
above those who’ve squabbled, lost their faith,
unprecedented and made true at last
socialism’s great heresy!
17 April 1917, Petrograd
Translated by Harry Gilonis
TRIPWIRE 14: THE RED ISSUE