Oleg travels by train to Minsk,
Carrying his hands in a lady's hat box,
Wedged between his arms,
Riding like an overfed pet cat upon his lap.
In his luggage, carefully wrapped,
Are beautiful soap replicas of his feet;
The artisan who created them now languishing,
A prisoner of the White Army.
Look at me, thinks Oleg...
A man in extremity!
He thinks of his young manhood in Odessa,
Where vendors called out to him,
With fez-wearing monkeys perched on their brutish shoulders.
Then, his middle years,
Married to a woman from a village at the foot of the Urals;
She was mute,
But bore him a son who became an opera singer.
Oleg's hair, what there is of it, is gray.
Where is all the color, the passion, of his earlier life?
As the train bumps along, he fixes his mind on his destination...
In Minsk, at the Workers' Hall,
He will unpack his hands, proudly,
And use them to embrace Lenin
And to offer himself to the great leader.
Oleg will throw himself into the collective fire,
Of the workers' noble cause!
His little feet, made of soap,
Delicate as a swan's, will melt.
Oleg is exalted just to think
That his bones will form the base
Of a statue
Of a worker
In the very spot where the czar's police once came,
And closed down the opera house...
The entire company, even the ballerinas,
Sent away to Siberia!
Nearing the station, Oleg prays to Lenin,
Take these hands,
Tuck a bottle of the "little water" under my arm
And pack me off to my grave;
You will find me there,
In a thousand years from now,
Singing your praises