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by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

A Cloud in Trousers

epilogue: 
Your thoughts, 
dreaming on a softened brain, 
like an over-fed lackey on a greasy settee, 
with my heart's bloody tatters I'll mock again; 
impudent and caustic, I'll jeer to superfluity.
Of Grandfatherly gentleness I'm devoid, there's not a single grey hair in my soul! Thundering the world with the might of my voice, I go by -- handsome, twenty-two-year-old.
Gentle ones! You lay your love on a violin.
The crude lay their love on a drum.
but you can't, like me, turn inside out entirely, and nothing but human lips become! Out of chintz-covered drawing-rooms, come and learn- decorous bureaucrats of angelic leagues.
and you whose lips are calmly thumbed, as a cook turns over cookery-book leaves.
If you like- I'll be furiously flesh elemental, or - changing to tones that the sunset arouses - if you like- I'll be extraordinary gentle, not a man, but - a cloud in trousers! 1 You think malaria makes me delirious? It happened.
In Odessa it happened.
¡°I¡¯ll come at four,¡± Maria promised.
Eight.
Nine.
Ten.
Then the evening turned its back on the windows and plunged into grim night, scowling Decemberish.
At my decrepit back the candelabras guffawed and whinnied.
You would not recognise me now: a bulging bulk of sinews, groaning, and writhing, What can such a clod desire? Though a clod, many things! The self does not care whether one is cast of bronze or the heart has an iron lining.
At night the self only desires to steep its clangour in softness, in woman.
And thus, enormous, I stood hunched by the window, and my brow melted the glass.
What will it be: love or no-love? And what kind of love: big or minute? How could a body like this have a big love? It should be teeny-weeny, humble, little love; a love that shies at the hooting of cars, that adores the bells of horse-trams.
Again and again nuzzling against the rain, my face pressed against its pitted face, I wait, splashed by the city¡¯s thundering surf.
Then midnight, amok with a knife, caught up, cut him down ¨C out with him! The stroke of twelve fell like a head from a block.
On the windowpanes, grey raindrops howled together, piling on a grimace as though the gargoyles of Notre Dame were howling.
Damn you! Isn¡¯t that enough? Screams will soon claw my mouth apart.
Then I heard, softly, a nerve leap like a sick man from his bed.
Then, barely moving, at first, it soon scampered about, agitated, distinct.
Now, with a couple more, it darted about in a desperate dance.
The plaster on the ground floor crashed.
Nerves, big nerves, tiny nerves, many nerves! ¨C galloped madly till soon their legs gave way.
But night oozed and oozed through the room ¨C and the eye, weighed down, could not slither out of the slime.
The doors suddenly banged ta-ra-bang, as though the hotel¡¯s teeth chattered.
You swept in abruptly like ¡°take it or leave it!¡± Mauling your suede gloves, you declared: ¡°D¡¯you know, I¡¯m getting married.
¡± All right, marry then.
So what, I can take it.
As you see, I¡¯m calm! Like the pulse of a corpse.
Do you remember how you used to talk? ¡°Jack London, money, love, passion.
¡± But I saw one thing only: you, a Gioconda, had to be stolen! And you were stolen.
In love, I shall gamble again, the arch of my brows ablaze.
What of it! Homeless tramps often find shelter in a burnt-out house! You¡¯re teasing me now? ¡°You have fewer emeralds of madness than a beggar has kopeks!¡± But remember! When they teased Vesuvius, Pompeii perished! Hey! Gentlemen! Amateurs of sacrilege, crime, and carnage, have you seen the terror of terrors ¨C my face when I am absolutely calm? I feel my ¡°I¡± is much too small for me.
Stubbornly a body pushes out of me.
Hello! Who¡¯s speaking? Mamma? Mamma! Your son is gloriously ill! Mamma! His heart is on fire.
Tell his sisters, Lyuda and Olya, he has no nook to hide in.
Each word, each joke, which his scorching mouth spews, jumps like a naked prostitute from a burning brothel.
People sniff the smell of burnt flesh! A brigade of men drive up.
A glittering brigade.
In bright helmets.
But no jackboots here! Tell the firemen to climb lovingly when a heart¡¯s on fire.
Leave it to me.
I¡¯ll pump barrels of tears from my eyes.
I¡¯ll brace myself against my ribs.
I¡¯ll leap out! Out! Out! They¡¯ve collapsed.
You can¡¯t leap out of a heart! From the cracks of the lips upon a smouldering face a cinder of a kiss rises to leap.
Mamma! I cannot sing.
In the heart¡¯s chapel the choir loft catches fire! The scorched figurines of words and numbers scurry from the skull like children from a flaming building.
Thus fear, in its effort to grasp at the sky, lifted high the flaming arms of the Lusitania.
Into the calm of the apartment where people quake, a hundred-eye blaze bursts from the docks.
Moan into the centuries, if you can, a last scream: I¡¯m on fire! 2 Glorify me! For me the great are no match.
Upon every achievement I stamp nihil I never want to read anything.
Books? What are books! Formerly I believed books were made like this: a poet came, lightly opened his lips, and the inspired fool burst into song ¨C if you please! But it seems, before they can launch into a song, poets must tramp for days with callused feet, and the sluggish fish of the imagination flounders softly in the slush of the heart.
And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth of loves and nightingales, the tongueless street merely writhes for lack of something to shout or say.
In our pride, we raise up again the cities¡¯ towers of Babel, but god, confusing tongues, grinds cities to pasture.
In silence the street pushed torment.
A shout stood erect in the gullet.
Wedged in the throat, bulging taxis and bony cabs bristled.
Pedestrians have trodden my chest flatter than consumption.
The city has locked the road in gloom.
But when ¨C nevertheless! ¨C the street coughed up the crush on the square, pushing away the portico that was treading on its throat, it looked as if: in choirs of an archangel¡¯s chorale, god, who has been plundered, was advancing in wrath! But the street, squatting down, bawled: ¡°Let¡¯s go and guzzle!¡± Krupps and Krupplets1 paint a bristling of menacing brows on the city, but in the mouth corpselets of dead words putrefy; and only two thrive and grow fat: ¡°swine,¡± and another besides, apparently ¨C ¡°borsch.
¡± Poets, soaked in plaints and sobs, break from the street, rumpling their matted hair over: ¡°How with two such words celebrate a young lady and love and a floweret under the dew?¡± In the poets¡¯ wake thousands of street folk: students, prostitutes, salesmen.
Gentlemen! Stop! thousands of street folk: students, prostitutes, salesmen.
Gentlemen! Stop! You are no beggars; how dare you beg for alms! We in our vigour, whose stride measures yards, must not listen, but tear them apart ¨C them, glued like a special supplement to each double bed! Are we to ask them humbly: ¡°Assist me!¡± Implore for a hymn or an oratorio! We ourselves are creators within a burning hymn ¨C the hum of mills and laboratories.
What is Faust to me, in a fairy splash of rockets gliding with Mephistopheles on the celestial parquet! I know ¨C a nail in my boot is more nightmarish than Goethe¡¯s fantasy! I, the most golden-mouthed, whose every word gives a new birthday to the soul, gives a name-day to the body, I adjure you: the minutest living speck is worth more than what I¡¯ll do or did! Listen! It is today¡¯s brazen-lipped Zarathustra who preaches, dashing about and groaning! We, our face like a crumpled sheet, our lips pendulant like a chandelier; we, the convicts of the City Leprous, where gold and filth spawned leper¡¯s sores, we are purer than the azure of Venice, washed by both the sea and the sun! I spit on the fact that neither Homer nor Ovid invented characters like us, pock-marked with soot.
I know the sun would dim, on seeing the gold fields of our souls! Sinews and muscles are surer than prayers.
Must we implore the charity of the times! We ¨C each one of us ¨C hold in our fists the driving belts of the worlds! This led to my Golgothas in the halls of Petrograd, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev, where not a man but shouted: ¡°Crucify, crucify him!¡± But for me ¨C all of you people, even those that harmed me ¨C you are dearer, more precious than anything.
Have you seen a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?! I, mocked by my contemporaries like a prolonged dirty joke, I perceive whom no one sees, crossing the mountains of time.
Where men¡¯s eyes stop short, there, at the head of hungry hordes, the year 1916 cometh in the thorny crown of revolutions.
In your midst, his precursor, I am where pain is ¨C everywhere; on each drop of the tear-flow I have nailed myself on the cross.
Nothing is left to forgive.
I¡¯ve cauterised the souls where tenderness was bred.
It was harder than taking a thousand thousand Bastilles! And when, the rebellion his advent announcing, you step to meet the saviour ¨C then I shall root up my soul; I¡¯ll trample it hard till it spread in blood; and I offer you this as a banner.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

At the Top of My voice

 My most respected
 comrades of posterity!
Rummaging among
 these days’ 
 petrified crap,
exploring the twilight of our times,
you,
 possibly,
 will inquire about me too.
And, possibly, your scholars will declare, with their erudition overwhelming a swarm of problems; once there lived a certain champion of boiled water, and inveterate enemy of raw water.
Professor, take off your bicycle glasses! I myself will expound those times and myself.
I, a latrine cleaner and water carrier, by the revolution mobilized and drafted, went off to the front from the aristocratic gardens of poetry - the capricious wench She planted a delicious garden, the daughter, cottage, pond and meadow.
Myself a garden I did plant, myself with water sprinkled it.
some pour their verse from water cans; others spit water from their mouth - the curly Macks, the clever jacks - but what the hell’s it all about! There’s no damming al this up - beneath the walls they mandoline: “Tara-tina, tara-tine, tw-a-n-g.
.
.
” It’s no great honor, then, for my monuments to rise from such roses above the public squares, where consumption coughs, where whores, hooligans and syphilis walk.
Agitprop sticks in my teeth too, and I’d rather compose romances for you - more profit in it and more charm.
But I subdued myself, setting my heel on the throat of my own song.
Listen, comrades of posterity, to the agitator the rabble-rouser.
Stifling the torrents of poetry, I’ll skip the volumes of lyrics; as one alive, I’ll address the living.
I’ll join you in the far communist future, I who am no Esenin super-hero.
My verse will reach you across the peaks of ages, over the heads of governments and poets.
My verse will reach you not as an arrow in a cupid-lyred chase, not as worn penny Reaches a numismatist, not as the light of dead stars reaches you.
My verse by labor will break the mountain chain of years, and will present itself ponderous, crude, tangible, as an aqueduct, by slaves of Rome constructed, enters into our days.
When in mounds of books, where verse lies buried, you discover by chance the iron filings of lines, touch them with respect, as you would some antique yet awesome weapon.
It’s no habit of mine to caress the ear with words; a maiden’s ear curly-ringed will not crimson when flicked by smut.
In parade deploying the armies of my pages, I shall inspect the regiments in line.
Heavy as lead, my verses at attention stand, ready for death and for immortal fame.
The poems are rigid, pressing muzzle to muzzle their gaping pointed titles.
The favorite of all the armed forces the cavalry of witticisms ready to launch a wild hallooing charge, reins its chargers still, raising the pointed lances of the rhymes.
and all these troops armed to the teeth, which have flashed by victoriously for twenty years, all these, to their very last page, I present to you, the planet’s proletarian.
The enemy of the massed working class is my enemy too inveterate and of long standing.
Years of trial and days of hunger ordered us to march under the red flag.
We opened each volume of Marx as we would open the shutters in our own house; but we did not have to read to make up our minds which side to join, which side to fight on.
Our dialectics were not learned from Hegel.
In the roar of battle it erupted into verse, when, under fire, the bourgeois decamped as once we ourselves had fled from them.
Let fame trudge after genius like an inconsolable widow to a funeral march - die then, my verse, die like a common soldier, like our men who nameless died attacking! I don’t care a spit for tons of bronze; I don’t care a spit for slimy marble.
We’re men of kind, we’ll come to terms about our fame; let our common monument be socialism built in battle.
Men of posterity examine the flotsam of dictionaries: out of Lethe will bob up the debris of such words as “prostitution,” “tuberculosis,” “blockade.
” For you, who are now healthy and agile, the poet with the rough tongue of his posters, has licked away consumptives’ spittle.
With the tail of my years behind me, I begin to resemble those monsters, excavated dinosaurs.
Comrade life, let us march faster, march faster through what’s left of the five-year plan.
My verse has brought me no rubles to spare: no craftsmen have made mahogany chairs for my house.
In all conscience, I need nothing except a freshly laundered shirt.
When I appear before the CCC of the coming bright years, by way of my Bolshevik party card, I’ll raise above the heads of a gang of self-seeking poets and rogues, all the hundred volumes of my communist-committed books.
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

My Soviet Passport

 I'd tear
 like a wolf
 at bureaucracy.
For mandates my respect's but the slightest.
To the devil himself I'd chuck without mercy every red-taped paper.
But this .
.
.
Down the long front of coupés and cabins File the officials politely.
They gather up passports and I give in My own vermilion booklet.
For one kind of passport - smiling lips part For others - an attitude scornful.
They take with respect, for instance, the passport From a sleeping-car English Lionel.
The good fellows eyes almost slip like pips when, bowing as low as men can, they take, as if they were taking a tip, the passport from an American.
At the Polish, they dolefully blink and wheeze in dumb police elephantism - where are they from, and what are these geographical novelties? And without a turn of their cabbage heads, their feelings hidden in lower regions, they take without blinking, the passports from Swedes and various old Norwegians.
Then sudden as if their mouths were aquake those gentlemen almost whine Those very official gentlemen take that red-skinned passport of mine.
Take- like a bomb take - like a hedgehog, like a razor double-edge stropped, take - like a rattlesnake huge and long with at least 20 fangs poison-tipped.
The porter's eyes give a significant flick (I'll carry your baggage for nix, mon ami.
.
.
) The gendarmes enquiringly look at the tec, the tec, - at the gendarmerie.
With what delight that gendarme caste would have me strung-up and whipped raw because I hold in my hands hammered-fast sickle-clasped my red Soviet passport.
I'd tear like a wolf at bureaucracy.
For mandates my respect's but the slightest.
To the devil himself I'd chuck without mercy every red-taped paper, But this .
.
.
I pull out of my wide trouser-pockets duplicate of a priceless cargo.
You now: read this and envy, I'm a citizen of the Soviet Socialist Union! Transcribed: by Liviu Iacob.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Conversation with Comrade Lenin

 Awhirl with events,
 packed with jobs one too many,
the day slowly sinks
 as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room: I and Lenin- a photograph on the whiteness of wall.
The stubble slides upward above his lip as his mouth jerks open in speech.
The tense creases of brow hold thought in their grip, immense brow matched by thought immense.
A forest of flags, raised-up hands thick as grass.
.
.
Thousands are marching beneath him.
.
.
Transported, alight with joy, I rise from my place, eager to see him, hail him, report to him! “Comrade Lenin, I report to you - (not a dictate of office, the heart’s prompting alone) This hellish work that we’re out to do will be done and is already being done.
We feed and we clothe and give light to the needy, the quotas for coal and for iron fulfill, but there is any amount of bleeding muck and rubbish around us still.
Without you, there’s many have got out of hand, all the sparring and squabbling does one in.
There’s scum in plenty hounding our land, outside the borders and also within.
Try to count ’em and tab ’em - it’s no go, there’s all kinds, and they’re thick as nettles: kulaks, red tapists, and, down the row, drunkards, sectarians, lickspittles.
They strut around proudly as peacocks, badges and fountain pens studding their chests.
We’ll lick the lot of ’em- but to lick ’em is no easy job at the very best.
On snow-covered lands and on stubbly fields, in smoky plants and on factory sites, with you in our hearts, Comrade Lenin, we build, we think, we breathe, we live, and we fight!” Awhirl with events, packed with jobs one too many, the day slowly sinks as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room: I and Lenin - a photograph on the whiteness of wall.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Back Home

 Thoughts, go your way home.
Embrace, depths of the soul and the sea.
In my view, it is stupid to be always serene.
My cabin is the worst of all cabins - All night above me Thuds a smithy of feet.
All night, stirring the ceiling’s calm, dancers stampede to a moaning motif: “Marquita, Marquita, Marquita my darling, why won’t you, Marquita, why won’t you love me …” But why Should marquita love me?! I have no francs to spare.
And Marquita (at the slightest wink!) for a hundred francs she’d be brought to your room.
The sum’s not large - just live for show - No, you highbrow, ruffling your matted hair, you would thrust upon her a sewing machine, in stitches scribbling the silk of verse.
Proletarians arrive at communism from below - by the low way of mines, sickles, and pitchforks - But I, from poetry’s skies, plunge into communism, because without it I feel no love.
Whether I’m self-exiled or sent to mamma - the steel of words corrodes, the brass of the brass tarnishes.
Why, beneath foreign rains, must I soak, rot, and rust? Here I recline, having gone oversea, in my idleness barely moving my machine parts.
I myself feel like a Soviet factory, manufacturing happiness.
I object to being torn up, like a flower of the fields, after a long day’s work.
I want the Gosplan to sweat in debate, assignning me goals a year ahead.
I want a commissar with a decree to lean over the thought of the age.
I want the heart to earn its love wage at a specialist’s rate.
I want the factory committee to lock My lips when the work is done.
I want the pen to be on a par with the bayonet; and Stalin to deliver his Politbureau reports about verse in the making as he would about pig iron and the smelting of steel.
“That’s how it is, the way it goes … We’ve attained the topmost level, climbing from the workers’ bunks: in the Union of Republics the understanding of verse now tops the prewar norm …” Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Attitude To A Miss

 That night was to decide
if she and I
were to be lovers.
Under cover of darkness no one would see, you see.
I bent over her, it’s the truth, and as I did, it’s the truth, I swear it, I said like a kindly parent: “Passion’s a precipice – so won’t you please move away? Move away, please!”


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Call To Account!

 The drum of war thunders and thunders.
It calls: thrust iron into the living.
From every country slave after slave are thrown onto bayonet steel.
For the sake of what? The earth shivers hungry and stripped.
Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath only so someone somewhere can get hold of Albania.
Human gangs bound in malice, blow after blow strikes the world only for someone’s vessels to pass without charge through the Bosporus.
Soon the world won’t have a rib intact.
And its soul will be pulled out.
And trampled down only for someone, to lay their hands on Mesopotamia.
Why does a boot crush the Earth — fissured and rough? What is above the battles’ sky - Freedom? God? Money! When will you stand to your full height, you, giving them your life? When will you hurl a question to their faces: Why are we fighting? Translated: by Lika Galkina with Jasper Goss, 2005.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Our March

 Beat the squares with the tramp of rebels!
Higher, rangers of haughty heads!
We'll wash the world with a second deluge, 
Now’s the hour whose coming it dreads.
Too slow, the wagon of years, The oxen of days — too glum.
Our god is the god of speed, Our heart — our battle drum.
Is there a gold diviner than ours/ What wasp of a bullet us can sting? Songs are our weapons, our power of powers, Our gold — our voices — just hear us sing! Meadow, lie green on the earth! With silk our days for us line! Rainbow, give color and girth To the fleet-foot steeds of time.
The heavens grudge us their starry glamour.
Bah! Without it our songs can thrive.
Hey there, Ursus Major, clamour For us to be taken to heaven alive! Sing, of delight drink deep, Drain spring by cups, not by thimbles.
Heart step up your beat! Our breasts be the brass of cymbals.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

To All and Everything

 No.
It can’t be.
No! You too, beloved? Why? What for? Darling, look - I came, I brought flowers, but, but.
.
.
I never took silver spoons from your drawer! Ashen-faced, I staggered down five flights of stairs.
The street eddied round me.
Blasts.
Blares.
Tires screeched.
It was gusty.
The wind stung my cheeks.
Horn mounted horn lustfully.
Above the capital’s madness I raised my face, stern as the faces of ancient icons.
Sorrow-rent, on your body as on a death-bed, its days my heart ended.
You did not sully your hands with brute murder.
Instead, you let drop calmly: “He’s in bed.
There’s fruit and wine On the bedstand’s palm.
” Love! You only existed in my inflamed brain.
Enough! Stop this foolish comedy and take notice: I’m ripping off my toy armour, I, the greatest of all Don Quixotes! Remember? Weighed down by the cross, Christ stopped for a moment, weary.
Watching him, the mob yelled, jeering: “Get movin’, you clod!” That’s right! Be spiteful.
Spit upon him who begs for a rest on his day of days, harry and curse him.
To the army of zealots, doomed to do good, man shows no mercy! That does it! I swear by my pagan strength - gimme a girl, young, eye-filling, and I won’t waste my feelings on her.
I'll rape her and spear her heart with a gibe willingly.
An eye for an eye! A thousand times over reap of revenge the crops' Never stop! Petrify, stun, howl into every ear: “The earth is a convict, hear, his head half shaved by the sun!” An eye for an eye! Kill me, bury me - I’ll dig myself out, the knives of my teeth by stone — no wonder!- made sharper, A snarling dog, under the plank-beds of barracks I’ll crawl, sneaking out to bite feet that smell of sweat and of market stalls! You'll leap from bed in the night’s early hours.
“Moo!” I’ll roar.
Over my neck, a yoke-savaged sore, tornados of flies will rise.
I'm a white bull over the earth towering! Into an elk I’ll turn, my horns-branches entangled in wires, my eyes red with blood.
Above the world, a beast brought to bay, I'll stand tirelessly.
Man can’t escape! Filthy and humble, a prayer mumbling, on cold stone he lies.
What I’ll do is paint on the royal gates, over God’s own the face of Razin.
Dry up, rivers, stop him from quenching his thirst! Scorn him! Don’t waste your rays, sun! Glare! Let thousands of my disciples be born to trumpet anathemas on the squares! And when at last there comes, stepping onto the peaks of the ages, chillingly, the last of their days, in the black souls of anarchists and killers I, a gory vision, will blaze! It’s dawning, The sky’s mouth stretches out more and more, it drinks up the night sip by sip, thirstily.
The windows send off a glow.
Through the panes heat pours.
The sun, viscous, streams down onto the sleeping city.
O sacred vengeance! Lead me again above the dust without and up the steps of my poetic lines.
This heart of mine, full to the brim, in a confession I will pour out.
Men of the future! Who are you? I must know.
Please! Here am I, all bruises and aches, pain-scorched.
.
.
To you of my great soul I bequeath the orchard.


by Vladimir Mayakovsky |

Past One O’Clock ...

 Past one o’clock.
You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits.
Why bother then To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address The ages, history, and all creation.
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.