The Stations and the Streets: A Battered Coin for Many Realms
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:01

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.

Not One Realm Only by Chris Floyd

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


Music and lyrics © 2012 by Chris Floyd

(For more on the work of Osip Mandelshtam, see here, here, and here.)

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