Tatyana

On a trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg, I met a Tatyana who spoke the first two lines of this song almost verbatim. It wasn’t too long after the Soviet Union’s fall, and people there seemed liberated to be able to practice religion again. Later, I walked unsuspectingly into a hushed Russian Orthodox ceremony in a small, candle-lit church, with just a dozen or so in attendance. The bridge here captures some of those impressions — like the discontent of replacing one dogma with another.

Later on the trip, there was a young music teacher who seemed strangely reluctant to smile as her students sang beautifully to her balalaika accompaniment. Sitting in that small auditorium, I saw a vase that had one extra flower, which I later found out makes a standard bouquet of 13 over there due to superstition: Even-numbered bouquets are for funerals.

Tatyana by Vernam Cipher

She said her name meant to dance
But she never had a chance
Some things never make sense
No matter how old you get

Why don’t she smile?
While she’s making you wonder
What’s underneath that mask
What she’s holding back
All you gotta do is ask
Why she don’t smile

For all the lies they told
They’ll never shrink her soul
Tonight we’ll be made whole
Welcomed to the fold

Why don’t she smile?
While she’s making you wonder
What’s underneath that mask
What she’s holding back
All you gotta do is ask
Why she don’t smile

She tried living for the church
She tried living for the state
She’s gonna live for herself now
If it’s not too late
She thought the world
was a tree-lined street
and the strong
cared for the weak

It’s more than she can face
Like 13 flowers in a vase
So she learned to betray
No pleasure, nerves, or dismay

Why don’t she smile?
While she’s making you wonder
What’s underneath that mask
What she’s holding back
All you gotta do is ask
Why she don’t smile

 

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