“Beware the hours of darkness, when the devil himself lights the streetlamps in order to show everything in a false light.” (Nikolai Gogol, Nevsky Prospekt)
I’ve got a Mayakovsky* headache going right now
Watch a Vasilyevsky** busker singing Tsoi***, I’d sing along, I don’t know how
Love, hope and daily bread
Or half-baked dreams inside my head
The bastard son of chronology
The past, the present, the future gave birth to me
Under the Neva**** and on to Nevsky***** now
Stare through Gogol’s glowing eyes into the shadows and the basements of his town
The modern city killed the night, embalmed it in electric light
The futurists just wrote the last rites
In the Russian night there’s one thing on my mind, it’s on my mind
Mechanised, left out on our own
Tom, when’s God coming home?
We’re enlightened and alone
And that’s why I sit here tonight
In this cheap basement cafe
Where third-hand gold spills from the lanes
Nikolai, your devil lights the lamps
I’d rather stay inside
I saw Bulgakov****** in a dream the other day
He told me “manuscripts won’t burn, but dig my glowing pipe tobacco fade to grey”
The river runs this whitest night past windows lit by candle light
The dreamless spires of industry
The ghosts of old St. Pete are haunting me
‘Cos the clocks won’t stop for no-one in this town
They run their course like Peter’s horse******* and stamp our sacred days into the ground
Dark clouds, horizon’s end, ink spilled from dead writers’ pens
Down the smoke-filled basement steps
And then the Russian night unfolds beyond the screens
Where nothing’s as it seems...
*Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), Russian Futurist writer.
**Vasilevsky Island in St. Petersburg, Russia.
***Viktor Tsoi (1962-1990), singer from the Russian band Kino.
*****Nevsky Prospekt, the main street in St. Petersburg.
******Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), Russian writer.
*******‘The Bronze Horseman’ statue of Peter the Great, which comes to life in the Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) poem of the same name.