Colourless, white and grey
Outside, cold, blinding, unfriendly.
Grey walls, grey floor, grey ceiling,
Grey faces, grey eyes, unfriendly grey
Four a.m. breakfast.
Porridge, fish broth and bread.
Judges, priests, high-ranking officials,
Jews, writers, dissenters,
Now a series of numbers,
Queue wearily for their food.
Work Team C.S.S. Building
They eat, without sound, without taste, without pleasure.
Grey soup, grey porridge, grey bread.
The priest mumbles some prayers,
The judge sits upright – elite.
The two Muscovites talk politics.
All Citizens of the Socialist State.
Twenty degrees below freezing,
The work party is counted out,
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty...
Citizen Guard count carefully now
....twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five...
Count one short Citizen Guard
And you’ll fill the gap yourself.
Eight guards, armed and warm,
Two dogs, hungry and wild.
Five abreast we march,
Hands behind backs, eyes forward.
A step to the right or left
And you’re dead, shot
Or torn to shreds.
Five-thirty and we arrive.
It is the site for the new power house.
Counted again, guards posted
And the team leaders take over.
Citizen guard discards his cigar butt
And two men fight to retrieve it;
The snow claims it first.
Fire made and water boiling
We mix the mortar.
Building blocks piled high
Trowels at the ready,
Work rate fixed, we begin
And heaven help the man
Who fails to pull his weight.
Trowels glide over steaming mortar,
Just a thin layer,
Put too much on and come the summer
It will all just melt away.
More mortar, more mortar for number two.
More water! Hurry man, hurry
The boiler’s running dry.
More wood! More wood!
No, not coal,
We want fire not smoke – no wood?
Then pull down the stairs.
The sun is overhead.
It is one o clock.
I remember reading where the Americans
Believe it is Twelve Noon when the sun is high!
Ah! If the Soviet Government says it is one
Then by God, whilst you’re in Russia
Time for rations.
It’s a good job the porridge has no taste
Because it looks alarmingly vile
But it fills your guts
And while you can feel it
Weighing heavy as you move,
Of course there’s no nourishment
To be got from it,
We’d be better off eating grass!
And so we would,
If there were any.
I’ve lost three teeth in eight years
Through crunching this bread.
Break over, back to work.
Stoke the boiler,
More wood! More water!
More mortar for number one!
You lazy sons of lice.
It’s getting darker.
The wall is now at chest height,
We’ve done well
And we got good rates.
It’s getting colder now,
The nightly lowering
Of the temperature begins.
They count us out again.
Why I don’t know,
Where would we go?
What would we eat?
You could walk for a week
And still see nothing but snow;
Like as not you’d be dead by the first night.
Isaac is limping.
I saw him earlier,
His big toe was swollen black.
I saw him lift the trowel
And heard the dull thud
But I couldn’t watch.
He’ll get ten days if they find out.
Ten days! That’s a laugh.
Two out of three die by the first night,
They just freeze up
Like wet sheets left out
In a frost,
Stiff as boards.
Now we’re running!
Are they mad?
Why are we running?
Copjezc, why are we running?
The maintenance group returning?
God no! If they get there first
We’ll get no supper tonight
Ruin you bastards, run.
A night without food,
Half of us will be dead by morning.
I hear screaming.
It’s the dogs,
If I turn my head
I can just see without slowing down...
Come on feet run, run,
Run or be dammed.
We’re going to make it.
Poor Isaac. Still he’s out of it now.
Come on citizen guard
Count us in – we’re hungry.
Ten o clock, supper.
Fish broth, porridge and bread.
Red faces, sparkling eyes,
Tired but warm.
We worked like hell today
And been fed three meals.
Time for a smoke.
All in all it’s been a good day.
I stole an apple,
Found a piece of metal
From a guard’s buckle,
It’ll make a good knife.
Yes! If the next five hundred days
Are no worse,
I might even start praying again.
© Copyright 2016 Irwinagain. All rights reserved.
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