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Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

(1893-1930 / Russia)

A Cloud In Trousers - part I


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
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!
galloped madly
till soon
their legs gave way.

But night oozed and oozed through the room
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
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!

Submitted: Thursday, September 02, 2010

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