Park Kultury on my mind…
(image c/o bbc.co.uk)
I’ve been working on a post about how the New START and the issue of nuclear deproliferation are dangerously underappreciated in this age of the GWOT. About how terrorism is the new It War because it is sexy and sells but it’s frankly over-rated and largely a ruse blah blah blah.
Call it the Worst. Timing. Ever.
Said diary will be postponed.
It’s a very weird feeling to wake up, open your e-mail and suddenly be in a panic about a bomb blast on the other side of the world. Sure, I have friends and acquaintances in Moscow, but what are the chances they’d be among the 30+ victims in a city of 8.5 million? Besides, I swiftly accounted for the closest of them. Of course, there are the infinite number of people who come in and out of your life, with whom you lose or never bothered to keep contact. Still, those people could theoretically be on any plane that crashes or in any city struck by an earthquake. Why the freak-out, poemless?
It’s been many years since I’ve set foot inside Park Kultury Metro station. But at one time in my life I set foot in it every single day. Moscow must be one of the few places in the world where the metro isn’t just a way to get from point A to point B, but a whole microcosm of society. I once imaged that anything you could get above ground you could get underground in Moscow. And that you could possibly live forever underground there. It was a disturbing concept. Even the subway is above ground where I am from. Only worms live underground, right? I felt like I’d stumbled into some dark sci-fi genre. A Twilight Zone episode. In the Metro, you could buy a puppy and take the puppy to the vet, have its prescriptions filled, buy some lingerie and some guns, grab nachos fromTaco Bell, see a performance, see fine art, see people die and be born, have your hair done, watch fixed, shoes re-soled… The possibilities in Moscow Metro were only limited by one’s imagination. In this way it was like a mini-Moscow. But warmer. My most vivid memory of Park Kultury stop was buying ponchiki on the sidewalk in front of the station during the harsh winter, and ducking inside to eat them. For those who don’t know, ponchiki are doughnuts. But these were not like any American doughnuts. They’d been deep fried and then tossed in a plastic bag with sugar just moments earlier, and a huge waft of sticky steam would escape when you opened the bag. For some reason this had to be done on the down lo. The ticket ladies were not too fond of people loitering with food in the entryway. Which was a bit odd since every human incursion fathomable was taking place in the bowels below us…
Anyway, idiot terrorists blowing people to bits for no good reason is a pretty horrific image to begin with. And I can’t imaging what it was like for those who experienced it first hand. But I guess it just made it a bit more vivid, the bloody scenes on the tv combined with my crystal clear memories. Like a dream. Or a nightmare, as it were.
I’m glad I have been able to account for my friends and very saddened for those who will not be able to. I can’t say I blame the terrorists for changing my memories of Park Kultury. My second most vivid memory of the place was when I discovered a dead body outside the doors late one night. Apparently a homeless drunk had succumbed to hypothermia. Oh, who am I kidding? I saw all kinda of horrors in that place. A lady who walked down the metro car on all fours barking like a dog. Someone hit and kiled by a car on the highway outside. People being generally abusive toward each other. Sad, stray animals (we took a kitten home one night).
And even then there were bombings. Bombings by Chechens, by gangsters, by lunatics…
Life went on. People continued to take the metro to the ballet and library and the university and the park and the museum and work and school and shopping… I don’t know if people continue to duck inside for illicit kiosk ponchiki. I think if I could do that right now, I’d feel a little better about all of this. But I can’t, so a poem will have to do.
I have enough treasures from the past
to last me longer than I need, or want.
You know as well as I . . . malevolent memory
won’t let go of half of them:
a modest church, with its gold cupola
slightly askew; a harsh chorus
of crows; the whistle of a train;
a birch tree haggard in a field
as if it had just been sprung from jail;
a secret midnight conclave
of monumental Bible-oaks;
and a tiny rowboat that comes drifting out
of somebody’s dreams, slowly foundering.
Winter has already loitered here,
lightly powdering these fields,
casting an impenetrable haze
that fills the world as far as the horizon.
I used to think that after we are gone
there’s nothing, simply nothing at all.
Then who’s that wandering by the porch
again and calling us by name?
Whose face is pressed against the frosted pane?
What hand out there is waving like a branch?
By way of reply, in that cobwebbed corner
a sunstruck tatter dances in the mirror.