Thursday, 28 May 2015

Modern Habitual Disenchantment: A Review

Modern Habitual Disenchantment or MHD is a collection of poems by Joshua Deeds AKA DurtyDeeds93, it’s a collection of free verse, with at least one entry embrace qualifying as short prose.  It’s on Googleplay and priced at $1. The poems are broken down into three collections connected loosely by subject matter. Those collections are Pain, Disillusioned and Anger. There are common themes and language in all three but each has a different target and so offers some variety.


The poems collected under pain are appropriately painful to read, I mean that in a good way.  They share a narrative of a relationship breakdown -possibly more than one- from the point of view of one of the survivors, and it does feel like the character (possibly the author, the details and vivid language seem to be coming from a personal place) is surviving a traumatic episode. The tone is bitter and the language vulgar and angry.
I don’t usually care for this sort of poetry but the pace and the fact that Deeds manages to resist the temptation to use fancy `romantic` words and sticks to language a normal human being would use in this situation helped draw me in. Deeds also has a gift for creating images with his words, I was constantly picturing a dark mostly empty home covered in wrappers and used comic books with knocked over picture frames.

“Your morality is a cover for something deeper, darker and sinister.
Your generosity is tainted with emotional baggage, despair and hate.
Cracks are showing.”


Disillusioned is a shorter section and a bit different. It retains the bitterness but targets American society, or more accurately what American society is alleged to be. Attacks on Patriotism, war, politicians and the callous attitudes to the poor and downtrodden all feature prominently. Read together Disillusioned tells the story of a man learning his beliefs are myths and the reality is a lot uglier then he imagined.

“We have created something ugly
A War based Republic,
A 21st Century Weimar.”

A loss of innocence that leads us to


Subject wise anger is a mix of the previous too sections, though the title is appropriate. Individual poems expose a rage and frustration within that depending on the poem is either directed at elements of society or a person they were once very close too. And a reiteration of that characters determination to survive and get through these events and possible extract some payback. It’s a confused and disjointed section, but Anger is a confusing and disjointed emotion flicking through targets and responses as and when they present themselves.

“I have a fascination with the dangerous
Knives, Swords and Modern Cavalry.
I persist. I study, I become, I am.”

Overall I endured MHD I think most who give it a chance will too, some of the language in some of the poems may be a bit too crude and the imagery a bit too violent for some though. If you’re the type of person who believes poetry should be about beauty and warmth I’d advise looking elsewhere there’s not much warmth and beauty to be found here.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Chapter 18

PRINCE Usatov, the former president of the Southeast Railway, put two motions to a voice vote. General Kasparov’s motion demanded that the Administration create a special section for hostages entirely separate from the quarters for common-law prisoners. Privy Councillor Von Eck was only asking permission for the hostages to close their rooms themselves during the day in order to prevent theft. The Privy Councillor’s “opportunistic moderatism” annoyed the intransigents. A bald jurist had just maintained that the exceptional situation of the hostages allowed them to demand to be treated as prisoners of war…. Having reached this point, the speaker had interrupted himself and stammered that “none of this would make any difference anyway.”
A murmur of disapproval arose.
“We got the mattresses, didn’t we?” triumphantly shouted the financier, Bobrikin, known as the Fat One, although six months of detention had made him resemble a great bat bewildered by the daylight. Professor Lytaev voted for the moderate motion, which caused his neighbours to jeer at the incurable liberalism of the university.
Ever since the night when he was dragged out of his cell at midnight, doubtless to be executed, only to end up, by accident or indulgence, in the hostages’ quarter, he had been feeling rather good, all things considered. His wife’s letters arrived every day, along with packs of cigarettes. Thanks to a former pickpocket who had stayed on in the prison as a watchman and who had a warm spot for intellectuals, the Professor had fixed up a corner for himself in Room 3, almost directly under the high, grilled window, which hadn’t been washed since the abdication of the Czar. The top of a packing case was his writing desk. Back against the wall, legs stretched out on the straw mattress, writing desk on his knees, he would stare up at the top of the window, at the rough diamond of a broken pane through which the white sky was revealed, and forget the room behind him with its petty passions and great fears. Since no hostages had been executed for some time, a few optimists were arguing that the terror had been ended following secret negotiations which, according to rumour, had been undertaken with the International Red Cross. The pessimists merely shrugged. One of these nights, in their opinion, a nasty surprise could be expected. “These bandits don’t give a damn for the Red Cross; and they’re much too crazy to stop halfway. I wouldn’t bet very much on our heads,” said General Kasparov, who had his own reasons to be worried. He trembled whenever the newspapers admitted the disastrous situation at the front, for he knew (having himself ordered a massacre of prisoners not too long ago, before embarking on the special train reserved for the flight of the General Staff) that defeated men are merciless. The principal preoccupation of the room remained the division of sugar and herring. Prince Usatov, the elected dean, presided over these quarrels with the fair-mindedness of an old nobleman accustomed to deciding questions of honour. Thanks to him, the ship owner Nesterov (of the firm Nesterov and bosch, known in the harbours of the New World and Old), who refused to touch dried fish, received an extra lump of sugar every other day plus three extra spoonful’s of sour cabbage soup each day.
A crow flew slowly across the broad shred of white sky which Lytaev was contemplating, tracing a curve which vanished as it was made; but this line, non-existent yet real, was enough to start the old men thinking. The bird’s flight; that’s the fact; the curve is only its law as conceived by my mind. Lytaev reached under his pillow and pulled out some odd-shaped scraps of paper which had been carefully smoothed down and were spotted with grease. Having sharpened his stub of a pencil with razor blade, a precious object loaned to him by Prince Usatov, he resumed his writing. He took lots of disconnected notes: it was his way of unravelling his thoughts. He sent them to Marie.
“Never, perhaps, have I lived in such total serenity. There is great happiness in being detached from everything and understanding everything. The happiness I feel is immense, bitter, painful, and calm. Life appeared suddenly before me stripped of everything that encumbered it: habits, conventions, duties, worries, superfluous relations. We end up abandoning our souls almost entirely to these things. Do you remember that story by Kipling we read together at Vevey: `The Miracle of Purun Bhagat`? it’s the tale of an old Westernised Hindu who retires high up in the mountains in order to finish out his life there with the earth, plants, tame animals – eternal reality. I’m an occidental. I have no wish to remove myself from men or from action: these too belong to eternity. I wish only to overcome my own impotence and to finally understand the curve described in the sky by the hurricane which is carrying us all along with it.
“All men’s miseries are reduced to naked simplicity here. We live the life of the poor. And I understand the poor, their direct vision of reality, their power to hate, their need to overturn the world. I have no hate, however, except, perhaps, in the end, for the things I love the most – I believe we are almost all of us without hate in this prison. I may be mistaken, for I don’t observe the others enough. I don’t have the time, would you believe it?
“They say the terror is going to end; I don’t think so. It is still a necessity. The storm must uproot the old trees, stir the ocean to its depths, wash clean the old stones, replenish the impoverished fields. The world will be new afterward. If the old oak whose heavy sap is barely able to circulate could think, it would call out for the lightning bolt and crumble with joy. Peter I was a great woodcutter. How many old oaks he cut down! Now greater woodcutters have come, we are in a class marked for the axe.
“What a dead thing we have made of history in our libraries! We looked for the explanation of the present in the past. It’s the present which explains the past. Real history will be written when men’s eyes are open.
“Many of those who are making the Revolution are madmen. Yet they will all serve, down to the last. And if there are some who know what they are doing, we can take our leave without regrets with our books and our dust-covered sciences (which have not been useless). Another science will be created Marie, I believe there are such men! There is too much order and method in this chaos. I think I can glimpse them. They exist or they are about to come into being, about to awaken to themselves. And I love them, even if they appear cruel, even if they are cruel, even if they kill me without seeing me.
“If only we are strong enough to prevail! You see that I have gone over to the side of those who tomorrow perhaps… The other side’s terror would be worse. It would uproot all the young shoots from this poor land. One side is defending their lives and life itself. The other, old privileges. The ones think of man. The others think only of their goods: not even about themselves; in here we have a former landowner whose only reason for wanting the White to win is to be indemnified for the confiscation of his stud farm.
“My spot is one of the best in our room, not far from the window. Through a broken pane I can see the sky. Betelgeuse was shining in the other night when we heard the cannon firing. What a miserable noise it was under those flickering white dots which are universes! I contemplated them with limitless detachment. After us, the stars will shine for other eyes, which will be better able to see them. Men are on the march, Marie. Whether it is by an absurd chance or by necessity that they must pass over our bodies, they are on the march.
“It is always the barbarians who renew the world. There is so much rubbish and hidden barbarism, sickness and lies in our culture! The barbarians who have come are the product of that culture. That’s why some of them are ugly and demented. They will be swept away like us, along with the old beliefs, the old images, the old poisons, money, and syphilis…”
There was no light in the evening. Lytaev had to stop. We are never able to share everything, especially when we want to reveal the best in us. Lytaev silenced the insurmountable fear he felt for death, and the fact that his desire to live was as great as that of a child who has just discovered death.
Yegor walked in circles around his cell, swaying from left to right, from right to left, half forgetting where he was. He was singing to himself. The Volga rolled her green waters through plains and forests, boats carrying hardy lads toward rich booty, Stenka’s head rolling under the block, Stenka’s head carried off on the waves…
The spy hole clanked open. A drooping moustache appeared:
“Silence. The rules forbid singing.”
Yegor felt his whole being rebound like a ball striking the ground and bouncing off in a new direction.
“Eat your own rules, stink-face, sewer rat, prison rat, moustache of my ass! I sing if I want to. You didn’t make the Revolution!”
Behind the closed spy hole, Moustache-face stood for a while, nonplussed. Seventeen years of loyal service in this jail through three revolutions, marked only by overcrowding, unheard-of relaxations in discipline, and a merry-go-round of people coming and going that could drive a man crazy, had adapted him to the silences of the galleries, and to the rules which, maintained by every successive administration, were as permanent and immutable as the succession of the seasons. Yet there were times in his life when he had trembled, heart in his throat, to see men returning to the prison as masters, whom he remembered well, having escorted them to the exercise yard behind the pimps. And so he hesitated a moment, torn between his sense of discipline and a vague apprehension. At that instant the new Commissar of the House of Detention, Comrade Ryzhik, emerged from the courtyard, followed by the quartermaster. (The previous Commissar, caught selling food on the black market, now occupied a cell on the fifth floor; the guys on fatigue duty spat in the boiled water they gave him to drink.) Moustache-face greeted Ryzhik in the regulation attitude of a guard before the warden. Ryzhik, whose cheeks were covered with a dirty-looking stubble of beard, frowned. Where had they dug up this old animal, trained in the prison service to jump through hoops of paper like a circus dog? Although the days back in 1914 when Ryzhik occupied cell 30 on the fourth floor were far away, he thought he remembered that ruddy face with its tarred moustache.
“One of our best men,” whispered the quartermaster. “An old timer: the only one who really knows his job. Never steals.”
“… Comrade Commissar, there’s a sailor here who is creating a disturbance.”
“What’s he doing?”
“He’s singing.”
Ryzhik shrugged his shoulders. “Well, then, let him sing.” He stared at Moustache-face with a kind of hatred. “Hand out grenades to all reliable men right away. (Not to this one, naturally.) /have them carry them on their belts. When I give the signal, `clean out` the counterrevolutionaries’ rooms and cells. Give each man his own assignment. Also `clean out` the rooms of hostages in Category One.”
“And the common criminals?” inquired the quartermaster. Ryzhik reflected; his instructions were silent on this point. After all, bandits only prey on property owners.
“Turn them loose, at the last moment.”
At a corner in the corridor they ran into the person Ryzhik wanted at all costs to avoid meeting. A gang of men in undershirts with trousers dragging over unlaced shoes were running toward the showers. One man loomed, dark, erect, terrifying. Close up he was no longer terrifying, just ordinary. Such is the power of concreteness that ten paces are enough to strip a man in appearance of the mystery surrounding him. How he had lost weight, aged in a few days: skin browned, mouth stretched at the corners, nose hooked, eyes like dark embers!
“Hello, Arkadi.”
“Hello, Ryzhik.”
“How’s it going?”
“So-so. Nothing. Do you think we’ll hold on?”
“It’ll be hard…”
Even in the days when Ryzhik was pushing flatcars weighing several tons around railroad yards in Siberia, the load he felt in the small of his back at the end of the day was no heavier than at this moment. A weight of ice pressing down body and soul. Already there was nothing more to say to each other. Ryzhik heard his own voice with a kind of astonishment, as if someone else, inside of him, had spoken in his place. This someone was now lying carelessly:
“Your case hasn’t been decided yet. There are too many problems already, as you must know.
“Would you like to see that… your woman? I can arrange that for you. Good. In an hour, brother. Farewell.”
In Russian they say “sorry” for “farewell.” There is deep wisdom in the word.
Arkadi lit a cigarette with trembling hands. He knew this slight but perceptible tremor in his hand well, having observed it on many occasions. He smiled, nonetheless, into the void. And so the little blond soldier accompanying him also smiled, his whole round face illuminated by two greenish drops of water.
Ryzhik locked the door of the director’s office.  Leather armchairs, dirty blotter. The Constitution of the Soviet Republic, the Regulations of the House of Detention. Ryzhik felt horribly alone, caught in a trap. No air. The dark panes of glass cabinet returned his ugly image. Shame at having nerves like an intellectual made him feel even hotter. He pounced at the telephone. Replace me immediately! I’m not made for this kind of work. Send anybody, but relieve me, you understand, within the hour! – That’s what he would shout at them. The sugary voice of a well-bred young lady informed him that Comrade Osipov had left for the front. No one was left at the Special Commission except Comrade Zvereva, on duty… At the office of the President, a heavy masculine voice indicated that Comrade President was in conversation with the capitol by direct wire and would not be free in the near future. Kirk was at the Special Defence Council meeting which was taking place on Trotsky’s train. Ryzhik finally got hold of Kondrati.
“What do you want from me, Ryzhik?  Be brief.”
How to tell him that….
“Kondrati, I’m exhausted. I can’t stand up anymore. Send someone to replace me.”
“Exhausted? Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know what we’re up against? Stay at your post and leave us the fuck alone.” The wire went dead. Ryzhik was suddenly aware of the cold, of the lurid lighting, of a touch of rheumatism.
He walked several turns around the office, just like so many of the men pacing circles in their cells at that moment. He felt more closed in than they.
He unlocked the door and rang. Moustache-face appeared.
“What’s yoyr name?”
“Do you have any spirits Vlasov?”
“Who can live without liquor? Good grain spirits, sir, distilled on the sly by the peasants, not far from here in…”
“Fine. Bring it.”
The first glass, a tall beer glass, sent its crude warmth coursing through Ryzhik’s stiff limbs. The way the fire gets into your pores when you warm yourself in front of a brazier burning out on the snow at night. Moustache-face stood with his arms at his sides, smiling obsequiously. “It’s good for the soul,” he said, licking lips that had not drunk. What a prick! Thought Ryzhik. But aloud he said:
 “Sit down and drink.”
Since there was only one glass, they took turns drinking.
Yegor entered the visitors’ room and found Shura. A nondescript soldier with grenades around his belt watched his every move without seeming to see him: such was the look of boredom on his inexpressive face. “I’ve brought you a saw,” whispered Shura. Her brilliant lips were close to the man’s lips that their breath mingled with these words. “Slide it into my sleeve.” The supple resistance of the flexible blade felt like a stiff fern on the underside of Yegor’s arm. Timochka, the soldier, saw quite clearly the Chinese-looking woman with cat’s eyes slipping something to her lover. And he spoke as if in a dream, softly, slowly:
“Take it, little brother, take it! For all the good it will do you… But you, Princess, you’re very kind.”
Yegor and Shura might have thought they were dreaming themselves to look at Timochka congealed in his boredom. His words passed through them, unreal.
“Bastard,” said Yegor, who believed only in the real.
“They know everything, Shura, those pigs. The bank job. The job at the Cooperative. Old Kalachnikov’s business. The anarchist deal. There was no point in arguing; it didn’t take ten minutes to settle my account…. Is it really you? It’s me. Up against the wall, my boy… That’s as much conversation as was possible. If I don’t find a way to skip, I’m done for. Once there was a man; now there isn’t. understand?”
The strange oval of her pale face looked up at him with intense pleading in the half-closed eyes.
“Don’t be angry, Yegor, I want to tell you something… something… Yegor, don’t be angry… I want them to put me against the wall with you, don’t be angry…”;

Yegor put his arm around her and the tension of his muscles communicated his inner agitation to her whole being. She saw the blood rush to his face, a drunken joy twist his broad smile, sending lightning flashes zigzagging across his eyes. Did he cry out? Or did it only seem to her that he cried out?
“Shura, my little golden-eyed cat! Are you mad? Don’t be stupid! Try to understand. They put a bullet through my head. Well, so what? life goes on, eh? People go on, eh? You go on eh? And the spring, do you think it will be any less beautiful? The thaw, the ice floes, the first green shoots, life-see?- and you, you!”
He shook his shaggy head; and dull fury boiled up in his skull, for he suffered rage at never being able to express himself (when lots of agitators with nothing to say are able to reel off phrases by the mile).
“Shura, my little golden-eyed cat, leave this place without looking back. Don’t forget me” – he spat violently- “no, forget me; it’s better that way, and I don’t give a dammn. Forget me. Live. Live, I tell you. Go to bed with the whole city. No, choose the strongest ones. No, let them choose you. Live. And don’t be afraid of anything. Of anything, do you hear? Like me. There’s nothing to be afraid of!”
Timochka waited for the last stroke of ten o’clock to sound before saying:
“Citizens, the visit is over.”

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Monday, 4 May 2015

Chapter 17

THE OFFICES are at work as usual. That is to say, they are going through the motions of working. There are people waiting on lines in the streets. Special assembly at the factory. Special meeting in the district. Telephones. The city awaits the event gathering somewhere above it, in unknown regions, ready to pounce on its huge prey. Woe unto the vanquished! A young pregnant woman – for maternity disarms suspicion- and an old white haired woman are preparing false papers for an underground organisation which will carry on the activity of the Party tomorrow, in the lost city; they don’t know that they have already been sold out to the enemy; that their addresses are known; that the false foreign passports they are buying are doubly false… Regiments are gloomily preparing for a supreme battle, pregnant with a horrible every-man-for-himself. The Special Party battalions, billeted around the Committees, are grumbling that nothing is being prepared for the evacuation; that the leaders will have trains and cars for their getaway while the poor slobs will play martyr. The workers, in the factories, are demanding flour and pilfering pieces of metal, tools, fence boards, sheet metal, ropes, cables… Clouds heavy with rain bring rumours of betrayals, arson, defeats, executions. The Cossacks have pillaged the palace of Gatchina. The great writer, Kuprin, has gone over to the enemy. “They’re hanging every last Jew, every last Communist!” At the end of school, in a schoolyard spotted with mud puddles, Rachel and Sarah, who look as if they had been born under a palm tree on the edge of a biblical desert, suddenly find themselves surrounded by kids.
“Yids! Yids! They’re gonna disembowel you soon!”
“Children too?” inquires blond-haired Madeleine.
“All of them! All of them.”
The little Jewish girls go off hand in hand, and already the future terror surrounds them with a strange void.
“What’s `disembowel`?” Rachel asks her big sister. But the big sister, who feels like crying, quickens her pace. “Shut up, you never understand anything.”
What makes you think the city can hold out when the whole Republic is going to crumble? Experts have studied the problem of transportation, the problem of food supply, the problem of the war, the problem of epidemics. They conclude that it would take a miracle. That’s their way of telling the Supreme Council for Defence: “You’re bankrupt!” They withdraw, very dignified, veiling their prophets’ arrogance. One knows that the wear on the railroad line will become fatal in less than three months. The other that the big cities will be condemned to die of hunger within the same lapse of time.  It’s mathematical. The third that the minimum program for munitions production is perfectly unrealisable. The fourth announces the spread of endemics. Their files contain all the temperature charts of the Revolution. This fever curve is deadly. History can’t be forced. Production cannot be organised by terror, don’t you see, with one of the most backward populations on earth! They barely refrain from passing sentence out of deference for the men of energy who have embarked on this formidable adventure, who are lost, but whose least errors will be studied for a long time to come. How to explain these men? That’s really the problem of problems. There is fear in that defiance; irony, too; perhaps even regret.
The experts have left. Two men face each other in the middle of the Supreme Council, which in fact resembles, with its long faces and its papers covered with specious figures, the board of directors of a firm which is losing money at a terrific rate. Liabilities: the White Terror in Budapest, the defeat of Hamburg; the silence of Berlin, the silence of Paris, the hesitation of Jean Longuet, the loss of Orel, the threat to Tula. Liabilities: the fact that we were nothing until yesterday, that we are coming out of poverty, out of the shadows, out of perpetual defeat. Assets: the dispatches from Italy, the strikes in Turin, the exploits of the partisans in the Siberian taiga, the rivalry between Washington and Tokyo, the articles of Serrati and of Pierre Brizon. Assets: the knowledge, the will, the blood of the workers. Another asset: the terrible liability of a civilisation which carries the wound of war in its side. Through propaganda, the eleven thousand people murdered by the White Terror in Finland are converted into assets…
At this moment, in the midst of the masses’ labour and silence, the debate is summed up in the heads of two men. They are the two whose tiresome effigies are seen everywhere: in people’s homes, in offices, in clubs, in the papers, in the display windows of flunky photographers contending for the honour of having shot the negative, at the doors of public buildings. On one occasion these two men, in a good mood after a great success in the nationalisation of the coal mines, exchanged the following ironical words about this iconography:
“I say, what a glut of portraits. Don’t you think they’ve gone a bit far?”
“The bad side of popularity, my friend. Whipped up by opportunists and morons.”
Both men were sarcastic, but in different ways: one was jovial, with a high, bare forehead, high cheekbones, a prominent nose, a wisp of russet beard, and a great air of health, simplicity, and sly intelligence. He laughed often, which made him squint, and then his half-closed eyes were full of green sparks. In those moments he displayed a huge wrinkled forehead, a big mouth, and a jovial expression which revealed to the observer the features of an Asiatic mingled with those of a European. The other man, a Jew, with prominent lips whose great fold at times revealed an eagle’s powerful ugliness, had a glance of penetrating intelligence, the carriage of a leader of men, an inner certainty which near-sighted people might confuse with old fashioned pride, and a rather deceptive Mephistophelean mask in his laughter- for this man retained the capacity for joy of an adolescent for whom all life is waiting to be conquered. They laugh at their own portraits.
“So long as we live long enough to stop them from being printed,” said the one.
“Let’s hope we live long enough not to be beatified,” said the other.
They knew that you can’t turn the world around without leaning on the oldest rocks.
The fate of the city is being decided between them. –What is a city, even that one! The southern front is more important. Here’s where we have to hold on: keep the Tula arsenal, the central capital, the keys to the Volga and the Urals, the heartland of the Revolution. Gain more time, even by giving up territory. Concentrate our forces. Nothing will be lost after this very hard blow. We can evacuate the city, since the situation is becoming untenable. The enemy won’t be able to feed it. It will be a brand of discord between the Whites and their allies… - Already one of these men, the one characterised by the greatest prudence in the execution of a design conceived with the greatest daring, is preparing to gather new weapons out of an accepted defeat.
The other man leans toward solutions of energy. The best defence is offense. Two hundred thousand proletarians, even exhausted ones, ought to be able to hold out against an army ten times less numerous bringing them the yoke. Two hundred thousand proletarians can be an amorphous mass doomed to slavery or a host on the march toward some great victory or a horrible defeat, an invincible, inexorable force stronger than traditional armies, itself capable of giving birth to impassioned armies. An obscure consciousness transforms submissive mobs into rebellious mobs; a clear consciousness awakens the mass to organisation and later brings forth armies. All that is needed is a human ferment.
The argument for resistance prevails. The chief of the army shakes his black mane. A flash of mockery veils the look of preoccupation in his pince-nez. The fold of his mouth relaxes.
“I’ll send in the Bashkirs!”
The laughter of the two men disconcerts the Council for a moment. The idea of turning this cavalry of the steppes on Helsingfors in case Finland starts to move is a brainstorm! (Whether the Bashkirs are worth anything under fire is another question…) It will make the ink flow by the gallon in the West. Not bad. Manipulating the enemy’s press is an advantage.
“By ensnaring it in its own stupidity, the effect is certain.”
“I’ll catch it through its own stupidity, exoticism, and funk.”
Grey battalions streamed out through the streets of the suburbs. Three thousand silent heads arrayed under the thick white columns of the Tauride Palace listened to Trotsky intoning, like an anathema, the threat of Revolution. Tomorrow this threat would reach the land of white lakes and pensive forests; by degrees it would penetrate, an evil shadow, into the petty cottages of a blond, fair skinned people, proud of its cleanliness, of its well-being, of its daughters (who practice rowing and read Knut Hamsun), of being the best-policed people on the globe and of having drowned its Commune in blood.
“The road that leads from Helsingfors to this city also leads from this city to Helsingfors!”
Three thousand pairs of hands applaud, for this is reversing the odds, turning a peril into a strength. The man who raises his hand in order to strike a blow feels stronger than the one who raises his hand to ward one off.
“We were silent, bourgeoisie of Finland, when you sold your country to the foreigner. We were silent when your aviators bombed us. We were silent when you massacred our brothers. The cup is full!”
Yes, full. Everyone felt it in that dark furnace where hazy silhouettes were fired with new anger.
“Well, then, strike! Dare to! We promise you extermination. We are massing the 1st Bashkir Division at your gates…”
Let a young people from the steppes avenge their dead from the Urals and the dead of every murdered Commune on these clean shaven merchants who have been trading on our death for months. The hounded Revolution turns around and shows you a new face, Europe.
“You rejected the proletarians who came proclaiming peace. You banned them from your civilisation because, armed with your science, they undertook to rebuild the world they carry on their shoulders. So be it! We have yet another side. We also have- the poet spoke true- Scythian cavalry! We will hurl them at your clean, tidy cities with their bright facades, at you brick-steepled Lutheran churches, at your parliament, your comfortable chalets, your banks, your pious, right-thinking newspapers.
Riding down the broad straight avenues appeared cavalrymen dressed in grey or black sheepskin caps mounted on little roan horses who couldn’t prance. The squadrons were preceded by commissars wearing pince-nez. Some of them had medallions of Karl Marx’s portrait pinned on their tnics as insignia. Most of them were yellow skinned nomads with wide, muscular, rather flat faces and little eyes.
They seemed to be happy to be riding through a town where the horses’ shoes never struck the soil, where all the houses were made of stone, where automobiles often bounded out of nowhere- but which was unfortunately lacking in horse troughs. And life must be sad there since there are neither beehives, nor flocks, nor horizons of plains and mountains… Their sabres were bedecked with red ribbons. They punctuated their guttural singing with whistle blasts which sent brief shivers down their horses’ manes.
In the evening the commanders, the commissars, the members of committees, and the men belonging to the Party, who were authorised to go out, wandered among the streets of ill fame looking for prostitutes. It was soon repeated around that they were almost all diseased. They paid well, for many of them were rich in their country; they were gentle, curious, caressing, and brutal with the women of the street- too white, too restless, and too talkative for their taste, and who were intimidated by their apparent awkwardness. They knew Dunya-the-Snake, Katka-Little-Apple, and Pug-Nose-Marfa. One of them left a curved, bone-handled dagger in Katka-Little-Apple’s pink belly- in their country, the women know slow dances and choruses that men can never forget. Over their long red dresses they wear necklaces hung with rows of coins which are passed down from generation to generation: big silver rubles of Peter and the two Catherines, blackened eagles of all the autocrats, coins of three centuries. The pattern of their dresses goes back even further. They love coral; and they croon at the doors of low wooden houses or tall round tents as they grind their grain in mills which are nothing but cut-off tree trunks. Their motions are the same as those of the women of the first Turkish tribes who came to land of the Belaia, driven by drought and war, so many centuries ago that the historians lose their way. Perhaps the ancestors of these riders were fashioning their beehives in the same shape as today long before there were Sophists in Athens.
Back from the fleshpots, a few of them were squatting in a circle in their barrack room, stirring up old projects. These men felt themselves a resuscitated people to the bones. Bitterly they recalled the great Kurultai of 1917 which declared their national independence. Word by heavy word they poured out their resentment at fighting for others, their hopes for glory, the more tangible hope of getting their pay, and thoughts heavier still. The man who had just possessed Dunya-the-Snake in feline silence, his loins empty now, his nails black, his skull covered with insect bites under his mop of hair, recited the lines of the Nogai poet in a nasal twang:

“Rosy dawn will wake the horses of the East.
The white birches will greet the horses of the east”

Kirim, squatting opposite him, continued in a singsong voice:
“The arrows of the sun will guide the horses of the East.”

Kirim always wore a green skullcap embroidered in gold with Arabic letters, even under his huge sheepskin hat. This man was learned in the Koran. Tibetan medicine, and the witchcraft of shamans who can conjure spirits, bring love or rain, turn loose epizootics. He also knew passages of the Communist Manifesto by heart. For laughs, they wake up Kara Galiev, who can be heard whistling as he snores.
“What time is it, Kara Galiev?”
Kara Galiev kept flocks for fifteen years on the steppe of Orenburg. The dry winds have eaten away the skin of his face like acid. He is wrinkled at thirty, as wrinkled as an old man od sixty, which he thinks he is at times, not having an exact count of his years. On his chest, hanging right against his rarely washed flesh, he wears a gold watch, like a great amulet, on the inside cover of which is engraved:
To Private
Ahmed Kara Galiev
Of The Red Army of Workers and Peasants
For his Bravery

Since he knows the place of every word, Kara Galiev sometimes imagines he is able to read. His plainsman’ sleep is light. The time? He takes out his watch, which hasn’t run since it was presented to him ro the sound of the “Internationale” under the red flags- without his knowing exactly why; for, on the same day, he had stolen a horse, taken flight at a shadow, and found a machine gun abandoned by the enemy in the middle of combat. He lifts the watch to his ear and shakes it. Ticktock, ticktock. The little sounds of time become perceptible for an instant. Kara Galiev noiselessly crosses the room in his bare feet, which are cloven like a faun’s, and goes out to sniff the air of a starless night. Kara galiev is infallible. Above his curly head so many different nights have unfurled their carpets of stars, their domes of ice, their infinity, their nothingness, that a new sense of time has been born in him. The darkness will be the same in an hour, in two or three, but he says:
“The third hour after sunset.”
And it is the third hour after sunset.
The Central Office for Political Education sent lecturers to explain socialism to these warriors. They left for the front along with columns of young khaki-clad mujiks from Riazan, battalions of fighters in caps clutching cartridge belts over their old overcoats, smart squads from the fleet, dressed all in black, astonishingly clean and well fed. On Pulkovo Heights, not far from the Observatory whose great telescope was pointed at the clusters of stars in the centre of Ursa Major thousands of light-years away, this thirteenth-century cavalry was decimated by high-explosive shells manufactured at St. Denis. The shaking of the earth caused by the artillery fire spoiled the observations of Moses Salomovich Hirsch, the astronomer.
Detskoe Park, covered with dead leaves, was falling into an irreversible state of neglect. Oblivion was covering the pavilions and statues placed at the ends of its straight paths for the delight of empresses. Some Bashkirs were admiring the little white mosque at the edge of the lake. The Chinese Theatre, surrounded by the deep silence of the pines, was filled with the heavy snores of an exhausted horde. A denlike stench escaped through the open doors. Convoys of wounded moved through the far end of the park; the last images of life reflected in their fading eyes were the golden tip of a minaret on the edge of the water, the colour of a dull sky reflected in the smooth white lake, the columns of a belvedere on a distant hill, and, forming a sort of shining crown, the gilded belfries of the Catherine Palace. Trifon, the terrified old keeper, a former palace footman, stood guard at the gates armed with a hunting rifle. Beside him stood a pale woman in a red kerchief. Bearded to the eyes, Trifon kept fiercely silent. Whenever the crackle of rifles firing somewhere reverberated through the air, Trifon took a few steps along the sidewalk, inspected the street and the grille of the new garden, removed his hat, and hastily crossed himself – five, six, seven times- in front of the little blue-and-white church. The useless carbine clashed with his pious demeanour. He believed that the end of the world was at hand, but he never doubted that it was his duty to preserve the palace he had guarded for thirty years from pillage- even from the wrath of God himself. The keeper was shivering with fever under an overcoat which was too big for his wasp like waist. The cuffs of his striped trousers were heavy with fringes of mud. The woman in the red bandanna had crazy eyes and dry lips that were almost black. She glowed inwardly with joy at having escaped hanging two days before. She reassured herself by reassuring her companions. “Don’t worry about anything. I’ve got my Party card.” And a mixture of secret laughter and touches of hate glittered in Trifon’s tiny pupils as he stared at her. In the sepulchral half-light behind the padlocked doors and closed shutters slept vast halls floored with rare woods: the amber room, the Hall of Portraits peopled with ghosts in court dress, the Hall of Silver, the tawny-coloured Hall of Lions, the Hall of Mirrors….
The Bashkirs Division tended its wounds -which wasn’t easy since there were no bandages- and slaked their fatigue in deep black slumber. A commander in a gold-braided green skullcap came alone to visit the palace. “I am Kirim, commander of the 4th, member of the Party!” The keeper insisted on removing the padlock himself. He guided the stone-faced visitor through the imperial apartments himself. Kirim walked along in silence, surprised, after days of chaotic fighting in the rain, by his semidarkness warmed by flashes of gold. He would gladly have slept on those floors as under the skies of pasture lands. The crystal chandeliers sent out a twinkle of lost stars in their infinitesimal motion. He spoke only once, in front of the malachite vases: “That’s ours.” The keeper, fearing his guest intended to carry off the vases, murmured: “… registered in the inventory of nationalised wealth…” and added, “They’re very heavy…” – “I mean,” Kirim continued severely, “Ural stone. Our Ural.”
A little later, in front of a white colonnade, Kirim noticed a tall sailor who had apparently seen some action, for the bottom of his coat was stained with dark red blood. He was holding an officer’s horse by the bridle. Booty. Shreds of splendid finery snatched by the armload from the wardrobe of the last Empress were lashed in a shapeless bundle behind his saddle under rough straps. Kirim came up and advised him with simplicity:
“Comrade, you’d do better to leave the wealth of the Republic right there. We must keep our consciousness.”
The sailor, testing the girth of the saddle with his hand, tossed his reply cheerfully over his shoulder:
“The Republic can shove it… get my meaning? Don’t get mad, my sourpussed little brother, I didn’t take everything. There’s enough left for you.”
Kara Galiev appeared at the edge of the ornamental lake. He was limping. Other grey forms were half visible among the weeping willows. “Hey!” shouted Kirim. He pounced like a cat, grabbed the sailor around the waist, and the two of them rolled between the horse’s legs. The animal, startled for a moment, watched curiously the double human form rolling around in the mud. Then his attention was caught by a green skullcap embroidered with an Arabic inscription: “There will be no city, said Allah that will escape our terrible punishment.”
Thus Yegor’s destiny was cut short.

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