[One cannot write on the moving train. One jots, one dashes, one scribbles, one notes…]
Working on the Trans-Sib. [4735 miles, 14 days, 6 time-zones, one-way] Peking – Datong – Erlian – Zamyn-Üüd – Ulaanbaatar – Suhe Bator – Nauschki – Shaluty -Ulan Ude – Slyudyanka – Port Baikal – Ulanovo – 110 Km – Marituj – Irkutsk – Krasnoyarsk – Novosibirsk – Yekaterinburg – Kasan – Moscow.
A place to lay your head. The depository of days. History-shuffled cards in a continuous deck. Forbidden city turned pillaged amusement park, amid a shade-absent, thick air. Dodge un-lighted, silent scooters in dark side-streets. Face the lack of amicable taxis. Skewered scorpions–duck livers– rotten eggs: taste the ten thousand things. Mao under glass. Take to your bed. Mosey among Yungang Cave Buddhas in a soft drizzle, near the coal-dusted detritus of Datong. Lay in bed. Hear the unseen crow quark from the Gandantegchinlen Temple roof. Avoid street cleaners winding across Ghengis Square. Stay in bed. Catch Mongolian border guards stamping your passport, gliding in-and- out of cabins at 2:00 a.m. (Bed head.) Touch the bright flowers in the yards of the old-believers’ colored homesteads. A boy kicks a quince across the pavement in front of the giant Lenin head. Every night, the conductor makes your bed. (You lie in it.) Eat smoked omul with fingers in Listwyanka along the shore of holy Baikal. Swim in the sky-clad lake. Stab the stroganina with a fork late at night, on the edge of the director’s bed, among the brilliant Russian guides–vodka in plastic cups and Russian toasts as poetry. Go to bed. Wake at the jarring exchange of locomotives. Wake to the ting-tang teek-tong of hammers testing brakes. Wake to the loud speakers echoing Russian at 5 a.m. in the empty rail yard of Maransk. Wake to the idling diesel engine in Omsk. Bedridden. Wake to the bathroom water-pump cycling from late-night visits of borscht-bloated passengers. Bedfellows. Chopin at the Volkonsky house. Meatballs and potatoes at a local Dacha. Taiga, taiga, taiga. Red caviar and blini. (Outlawed black under every counter.) Vodka tasting. Sick bed. Skateboards flip through the shadow of Lenin looking towards the horizon. “People are Strange”, plays from the park bench near the remnant of Alexander’s Bridge. Death bed. Pistols, bayonets, Romanovs in the basement—the young singer of the liturgy checks her cell phone in between songs at the Blood Cathedral. The light breeze through the woods at Ganina Yamma stirs the pansies. Lenin pointing to the pedestrian-shopping-mall. The obelisk like a nail come through the bedrock edges of Eurasia.
People stopping to piss in the woods. Giant gas pipes follow along the road. Sung suras broadcast above those bowing before icons. Drink an oolong at the Cinnabon in Kasan before hearing a 14 year- old prodigy play Paganini. Imbedded. The slow clacking coast into Moscow station. A stranger turns and speaks at the bathroom washbasin, once out, introduces his “beautiful” wife, both of us exclaiming, “Friendship, friendship, absolute, absolute”, undried hands throwing drops of water as they pump up and down. Moscow crackle. Six-lane whoosh of light. Marble subway stations. Red Kreml lording over the body of Lenin, prone, under glass. Bedazzled, bedlam-(bottled). To be put to bed. The bed, too short, too hard. Out of bed.