A Cloud in Trousers
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,
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
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!
You think malaria makes me delirious?
In Odessa it happened.
¡°I¡¯ll come at four,¡± Maria promised.
Then the evening
turned its back on the windows
and plunged into grim night,
At my decrepit back
the candelabras guffawed and whinnied.
You would not recognise me now:
a bulging bulk of sinews,
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,
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,
splashed by the city¡¯s thundering surf.
Then midnight, amok with a knife,
cut him down ¨C
out with him!
The stroke of twelve fell
like a head from a block.
On the windowpanes, grey raindrops
piling on a grimace
as though the gargoyles
of Notre Dame were howling.
Isn¡¯t that enough?
Screams will soon claw my mouth apart.
Then I heard,
a nerve leap
like a sick man from his bed.
it soon scampered about,
Now, with a couple more,
it darted about in a desperate dance.
The plaster on the ground floor crashed.
many nerves! ¨C
their legs gave way.
But night oozed and oozed through the room ¨C
and the eye, weighed down, could not slither out of
The doors suddenly banged ta-ra-bang,
as though the hotel¡¯s teeth
You swept in abruptly
like ¡°take it or leave it!¡±
Mauling your suede gloves,
I¡¯m getting married.
All right, marry then.
I can take it.
As you see, I¡¯m calm!
Like the pulse
of a corpse.
Do you remember
how you used to talk?
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!¡±
When they teased Vesuvius,
have you seen
the terror of terrors ¨C
am absolutely calm?
is much too small for me.
Stubbornly a body pushes out of me.
Your son is gloriously ill!
His heart is on fire.
Tell his sisters, Lyuda and Olya,
he has no nook to hide in.
which his scorching mouth spews,
jumps like a naked prostitute
from a burning brothel.
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!
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.
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.
in its effort to grasp at the sky,
the flaming arms of the Lusitania.
Into the calm of the apartment
where people quake,
a hundred-eye blaze bursts from the docks.
into the centuries,
if you can, a last scream: I¡¯m on fire!
For me the great are no match.
Upon every achievement
I stamp nihil
I never want
to read anything.
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,
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
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
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:
and another besides,
apparently ¨C ¡°borsch.
soaked in plaints and sobs,
break from the street, rumpling their matted hair
over: ¡°How with two such words celebrate
a young lady
and a floweret under the dew?¡±
In the poets¡¯ wake
thousands of street folk:
thousands of street folk:
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
glued like a special supplement
to each double bed!
Are we to ask them humbly:
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!
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!
It is today¡¯s brazen-lipped Zarathustra
dashing about and groaning!
our face like a crumpled sheet,
our lips pendulant like a chandelier;
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.
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!
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 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?!
mocked by my contemporaries
like a prolonged
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!
his advent announcing,
you step to meet the saviour ¨C
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
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