The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Written in the late 1950’s, Andrei Voznesensky’s “The Last Train to Malakhovka” illustrates the poet’s concern for the fate of his fellow human beings in an increasingly alienating and depersonalized world and reflects his belief in the revitalizing power of poetry. Like much of Voznesensky’s early work, “The Last Train to Malakhovka” is intended to be read aloud. The translation by poet Jean Garrigue preserves many of the aural qualities of the original Russian, although Garrigue’s interpretation does not rhyme, using blank verse instead. The poem is divided into ten four-line stanzas; lines vary from four to eleven syllables.

The opening stanzas present the passengers on the late train to Malakhovka, a run-down suburb of Moscow known for its prostitutes and its criminal element. The poem’s first line introduces switchblade-carrying toughs, and the next depicts a rough group of girls whose gold-capped teeth mark them as members of an underclass, possibly gypsies. The stanza closes with a glimpse of the conductors napping. The second stanza reveals a division among the passengers. Tired workers sleep in the front of the coach; the rougher, rowdier group is at the rear. This is where the poet, introduced in the third stanza, chooses to ride, among the “Thieves and guitars.” The back of the train, noisy and littered with trash, is likened to a gypsy camp. In the midst of the din, the poet begins to recite “First Frost,” a...

(The entire section is 465 words.)