‘An aesthetic surfeit of colours, disorganisation, and teeming humanity.
Walter Benjamin, ‘Moscow’
As I photograph a l’Oreal billboard from Moskvoretsky Bridge
competing with St Basil’s candy-coloured onion-domes, trucks
pull up spilling soldiers onto the sounds of impending battle,
an approaching roar, wrath of drums, stamp of columns fresh from
the Caucasus yelling guttural noise from the Red Army songbook,
a terrible music warriors have sung since farmers nourished us
with warlords, merchants and accountants. They march below
beside a tourist boat sliding though the Moskva’s plastic detritus
pulling two black-headed gulls and one male mallard along.
Behind us their comrades light up, some hold their instruments
in readiness, one warms up blowing a few bars of in ‘The Mood’.
The sun fires cress-green parallelograms covered in layers of skin,
pink nose and cheek, cropped heads topped by black berets.
These shadows shouldering semi-automatics make history,
the scripture of obedience, any argument from design is as unreal
as laughter/slaughter as they swing round onto Red Square,
from this distance telescoping into one bouncing caterpillar
reassigned from Chechnya to a juicy leaf of Mother Russia.
The clouds have been seeded for Saturday’s parade,
the designer stores have opened their shiny doors,
dismissed soldiers mill about drinking cheap bottles of beer.