Muscovite Dawn

The ink coagulates in the well. He shakes it experimentally. It turns thixotropic, slopping over the edges to run like severed arteries down the scarred wood. A few drips release their grip on the edge of the desk and fall heavily onto the tiled floor. He likes the smell. It reminds him of school.

He shuts his eyes but devoid of sight there is only a sense of a bitter aftertaste on his tongue. A burr of an earlier meal around his teeth. Oily residue of Burgundy and coffee. His hand moves the pen, spews a sentence or two onto the waiting paper. Like a half-heard conversation at a cheap party it lacks content. Nothing flows tonight. Words become sluggish; the blood in the poet’s atrophied veins. His muse is anaemic: she flirts with the altar boys of remembrance and hope; Marian and chaste in her simplicity. Making small gestures with lily white fingers. He writes like a corpse.

Dullness surrounds him imagining October in its stolidness. He enjoys the solitude the cold room brings. It is easier to look to the damp for excuses than sit and stare at the sun outside watching the gulls swoop in low ogives over the sunbathers. He feels he is too old for such frivolity yet all the world could not hold him back were he to be asked to partake. Outside the whores of the revolution laugh on the grass, squandering their idolatry like stolen vodka. The youngest boy has perfect skin.

There is little for him to turn his attention to except waiting. The future lies buried in an open grave in Novdevenchy cemetery. All responsibility abrogated to dialectic inertia. Conscience has been flogged at the marketplace, sold for stale bread and a little rough meat. The censor’s pen pauses, scribbles a triangle in the margin of the bulletin. An Enochian narrative of sorts. It does not matter what sigil he inscribes beside names: the kommissars will make their own minds up.

He was told six months ago that there was a direct connection between sex and heroic monumentalism by a black-toothed old babushka wearing a red arm band. There is an erotic part to our struggles, she had said, noticing the way he watched the sailors in their tight banded tops parade half-heartedly around the Prospekt. A week later most of the platoon lay dead or dying in the streets, limbs frozen into grotesqueries by drink and freezing temperatures. The old witch died too. Shot with the innocents by soldiers too far removed from sobriety to care whom they killed.

We have mortgaged our souls to rewrite our past, he thought. What great act of aggression is needed to cauterise our wounds? To prevent the infection from spreading outwards like canker? Crypto-crypto fascists strung like bunting from the Kremlin walls. Within its hallowed brick the privileged few swigged from Czarist cellars, ate Caspian caviar. Elsewhere the price of a cigarette was three bullets through the chest.

The young guard lies with his rifle for a pillow. A faint breeze stirs the soft dark down on his chest. He sees the old poet staring and leers back bucking his hips suggestively. The man is repelled. Not by this wanton offer of feverish coupling but by his own yearning to accept. It has all gone, he thought sadly. The dominance of rationality over sensation. A shadow to stain the sun.

Muscovite dawn to angry red.