POEMS

Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

 

Excerpt from the poem

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

1924/1925

 

 

To his Own Beloved Self
The Author Dedicates
These Lines

(1916)

 

Six.
Ponderous. The chimes of a clock.
“Render unto Caesar ... render unto God...”
But where’s
someone like me to dock?
Where’11 I find a lair?

Were I
like the ocean of oceans little,
on the tiptoes of waves I’d rise,
I’d strain, a tide, to caress the moon.
Where to find someone to love
of my size,
the sky too small for her to fit in?

Were I poor
as a multimillionaire,
it’d still be tough.
What’s money for the soul? –
thief insatiable.
The gold
of all the Californias isn’t enough
for my desires’ riotous horde.

I wish I were tongue-tied,
like Dante or Petrarch,
able to fire a woman’s heart,
reduce it to ashes with verse-filled pages!
My words
and my love
form a triumphal arch:
through it, in all their splendour,
leaving no trace, will pass
the inamoratas of all the ages!

Were I
as quiet as thunder,
how I’d wail and whine!
One groan of mine
would start the world’s crumbling cloister shivering.
And if
I’d end up by roaring
with all of its power of lungs and more –
the comets, distressed, would wring their hands
and from the sky’s roof
leap in a fever.

If I were dim as the sun,
night I’d drill
with the rays of my eyes,
and also
all by my lonesome,
radiant self
build up the earth’s shriveled bosom.

On I’ll pass,
dragging my huge love behind me.
On what
feverish night, deliria-ridden,
by what Goliaths was I begot –
I, so big
and by no one needed?

 

 

To All and Everything

(1916)

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.

 

 

 

Our March

(1917)

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.

 

 

Call To Account!

(1917)

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?

 

 

Attitude
To A Miss

(1920)

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!”

 

 

You

(1922)

You came –
determined,
because I was large,
because I was roaring,
but on close inspection
you saw a mere boy.
You seized
and snatched away my heart
and began
to play with it –
like a girl with a bouncing ball.
And before this miracle
every woman
was either a lady astounded
or a maiden inquiring:
“Love such a fellow?
Why, he'll pounce on you!
She must be a lion tamer,
a girl from the zoo!”
But I was triumphant.
I didn’t feel it –
the yoke!
Oblivious with joy,
I jumped
and leapt about, a bride-happy redskin,
I felt so elated
and light.

 

 

Back Home

(1925)

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 …”

 

 

Good!  

(fragment, chapter 14)

1927

Over those
whom  sleep eternal claimed
that lean,
harsh winter
spread
a pall.
What  are words!
Words
are lame!
On the Volga sores
I refuse
to dwell.
Of a string of days
I choose
to speak,
akin
to a thousand others,
bleak,
pushed on
by the years,
oarsmen eager,
not over-fat
nor
over-meagre.
If ever
something of worth
I wrote
it was all
the  fault
of a pair
of eyes-
bottomless skies,
my  beloved's eyes.
Huge  they are,
round,
dark brown,
with a speck
of hazel,
coal-hot,
blazing.
The  phone's gone
stark-raving mad,
an axe's
blunt edge
striking the ear:
wham!
Round  the huge brown  eyes -
pads:
hunger's
to blame.
Doctor's orders:
for the eyes
to be able
to eye
the world,

heat the place,
put greens
on the table.
By their curly green tails -
behold!-
I'm holding
two  carrots
crunchy.
They're not
for my  stew:
I'm taking them to
my sweetheart,
for her
to munch.
Boxes of sweets
and flowers
freely
I handed  out,
but
I recall
that those carrots
plus firewood
(half a billet)
were
the most precious
gift
of all.
Thrust under my arm
are
damp pieces of wood:
knobby sticks,
eyebrow-thick.
Face puffy,
eyes-splits:
it's
malnutrition.
Greens and care -
eyes clear.
Bigger than saucers,
they eye
the Revolution.
Easier for me
than for most
(it's no boast!)
Because I'm
Mayakovsky.

I sit and chew
a fresh
piece of horse flesh.
The door whines.
My kid sister.
"Hullo!"
"Hullo!"
"Volodya, listen,
it's New Year's tomorrow.
Got some salt
I could borrow?"
"A pinch,
Wet  too.
Here,
let's divide it in two."
Wading  through  snow,
fighting fear,
with an
"Oh, dear,
how'll I keep on my feet!"
Olga  stumbles along
the icy,
three-mile long
Presnya Street.
Home
to salt her potatoes
she hastens.
Frost
walks
beside her,
grows fierce,
inches
closer,
tickles
and  pinches.
"Gimme it!
Isn't that salt
you're hiding?"
Home at last,
and didn't lose it.
But how  use it?
To  her fingers
it's frozen fast.
Behind  the wall
shuffling feet.
"Here,  wife,
we gotta eat.
Trade  my  coat
for millet,
will ye?"
Look  through the pane-
it's snowing again.
The snow  falls,
covering all.
Soft its step,
yes,
and  light.
Moscow's
a cliff,
bare
and white.
Snow lies
in banks
and drifts.
Of forests
the skeleton clings
to the cliff.
Daybreak.
Into the sky's thick shawl
the sun,
a louse,
crawls.
December's late dawn,
worn out,
shivery,
hangs
over Moscow
like typhus fever.
Storm  clouds vagrant
to fat lands migrate.
Wrapped  in haze,
its chest sticking out,
America  lies.
What  is it doing? -
Lapping up
coffee
and cocoa
by  the cup.
Into your face,
thick as the snout
of a good-sized pig,
than a round tray rounder,
from  this hungering land of ours
I shout:
My love
for my land
is boundless!

You can forget
when
and where
you stuffed
your craw
and your belly,
but
the land
you hungered with
you can never
as long as you live and breathe
forget!

 

 

 

Conversation
with Comrade Lenin

(1929)

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.

 

 

 

My Soviet Passport

(1929)

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!

 

 

At the Top of My voice
First Prelude to the Poem

1930

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.

 

 

 

Past One O’Clock ...

This poem was found among Mayakovsky’s papers after his suicide on April 14, 1930. He had used the middle section, with slight changes, as an epilogue to his suicide note.

1930

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.

 

 

Is love the total sum of everything for me? Yes, only in another sense. Love is life, love is the main thing. My poetry, my actions, everything else stems from it. Love is the heart of everything. If it stops working, all the rest withers, becomes superfluous, unnecessary. ❞

— Mayakovsky, in correspondence with Lili Brik

 

 

 

 




 

 

recent revision 14. 04. 2015

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