Vladimir Mayakovsky – A Cloud in Trousers (English)

[Source]

Prologue

Your thought,
Fantasizing on a sodden brain,
Like a bloated lackey on a greasy couch sprawling, —
With my heart’s bloody tatters, I’ll mock it again.
Until I’m contempt, I’ll be ruthless and galling.

There’s no grandfatherly fondness in me,
There are no gray hairs in my soul!
Shaking the world with my voice and grinning,
I pass you by, — handsome,
Twentytwoyearold.

Gentle souls!
You play your love on the violin.
The crude ones play it on the drums violently.
But can you turn yourselves inside out, like me
And become just two lips entirely?

Come and learn–
You, decorous bureaucrats of angelic leagues!
Step out of those cambric drawing-rooms

And you, who can leaf your lips
Like a cook turns the pages of her recipe books.

If you wish–
I’ll rage on raw meat like a vandal
Or change into hues that the sunrise arouses,
If you wish–
I can be irreproachably gentle,
Not a man — but a cloud in trousers.

I refuse to believe in Nice blossoming!
I will glorify you regardless, —
Men, crumpled like bed-sheets in hospitals,
And women, battered like overused proverbs.

Part I

You think I’m delirious with malaria?

This happened.
In Odessa, this happened.

“I’ll come at four,” promised Maria.

Eight…
Nine…
Ten.

Soon after,
The evening,
Frowning,
And Decemberish,

Left the windows
And vanished in dire darkness.

Behind me, I hear the neighing and laughter
Of candelabras.

You wouldn’t recognize me if you knew me prior:
A bulk of sinews
Moaning,
Fidgeting.
What can such a clod desire?
But a clod desires many things.

Because for oneself it doesn’t matter
Whether you’re cast of copper
Or whether the heart is cold metal.
At night, you want to wrap your clamor
In something feminine,
Gentle.

And thus,
Enormous,
I hunch in the frame,
And with my forehead, I melt the window glass.
Will this love be tremendous or lame?
Will it sustain or pass?
A big one wouldn’t fit a body like this:
It must be a little love, — a baby, sort of,
It shies away when the cars honk and hiss,
But adores the bells on the horse-tram.
I come face to face
With the rippling rain,
Yet once more,
And wait
Splashed by the city surf’s thundering roar.

Running amok with a knife outside,
The night caught up to him
And stabbed him,
Unseen.

The stroke of midnight
Fell like a head from a guillotine.

The silver raindrops on the windowpane
Were piling a grimace
And yelling.
It was as if the gargoyles of Notre Dame
Started yelping.

Damn you!
Haven’t you had enough yet?
Cries will soon cut my throat all around.

I heard:
Softly,
Like a patient out of his bed,
A nerve leapt
Down.
At first,
He barely moved.
Then, apprehensive
And distinct,
He started prancing.
And now, he and another two,
Darted about, step-dancing.

On the ground floor, the plaster was falling fast.

Nerves,
Big ones
Little ones,–
Various! —
Galloped madly
Until, at last,
Their legs wouldn’t carry them.

The night oozed through the room and sank.
Stuck in slime, the eye couldn’t slither out of it.
Suddenly the doors started to bang
As if the hotel’s teeth were chattering.

You entered,
Abrupt like “Take it!”,
Mauling suede gloves, you tarried,
And said:
“You know,–
I’m soon getting married.”

Get married then.
It’s all right,
I can handle it.
You see — I’m calm, of course!
Like the pulse
Of a corpse.

Remember?
You used to say:
“Jack London,
Money,
Love and ardor,”–
I saw one thing only:
You were La Gioconda,
Which had to be stolen!

And someone stole you.

Again in love, I shall start gambling,
With fire illuminating the arch of my eyebrows.
And why not?
Sometimes, the homeless ramblers
Will seek to find shelter in a burnt down house!

You’re mocking me?
“You’ve fewer emeralds of madness
than a beggar kopecks, there’s no disproving this!”
But remember
Pompeii came to end thus
When somebody teased Vesuvius!

Hey!
Gentlemen!
You care for
Sacrilege,
Crime
And war.
But have you seen
The frightening terror
Of my face
When
It’s
Perfectly calm?

And I feel-
“I”
Is too small to fit me.
Someone inside me is getting smothered.

Hello!
Who’s speaking?
Mother?
Mother!
Your son has a wonderful sickness!
Mother!
His heart has been set alight!
Tell Lydia and Olga, his sisters,
That there’s simply no where to hide.
Every word,
Whether funny or crude,
That he spews from his scorching mouth,
Jumps like a naked prostitute
From a burning brothel.

People sniff–
Something’s burned down.
They call the firemen.
In glittering helmets,
They carelessly start intruding.
Hey, tell the firemen:
No boots allowed!
With a sizzling heart one has to be prudent.
I’ll do it!
I’ll pump my watery eyes into containers.
Just let me push off my ribs and I’ll start.
I’ll leap out! I’ll leap out! You can’t restrain me!
They’ve collapsed.
You can’t leap out of the heart!

From the cracks of the lips,
A cindering kiss springs,
Running away from the smoldering face.

Mother!
I can’t sing.
In the heart’s chapel, the choir was set ablaze!

The figurines of words and numbers
From the skull,
Like kids from a burning building, scurry.
Thus fear,
Reaching up to the sky, called
And raised
Lusitania’s fiery arms with worry.

A hundred-eyed blaze looked into the peace
Of apartments, where the people perspired.
With a final outcry,
Will you moan, at least,
To report to the centuries that I’m on fire?

Part II

Glorify me!
The great ones are no match for me!
Upon everything that’s been done
I stamp the word “naught.”

As of now, I have no desire to read.
Novels?
So what!

This is how books are made,
I used to think: —
Along comes a poet,
And opens his lips with ease.
Inspired, the fool simply begins to sing —
Oh please!
It turns out:
Before they can sing with elation,
On their calloused feet they tramp for some time,
While the brainless fishes of imagination
Are splashing and wallowing in the heart’s slime.
And while, hissing with rhymes, they boil
All the loves and the nightingales in a broth-like liquid,
The tongueless street merely squirms and coils —
It has nothing to yell or even speak with.

In our pride, we work all day with goodwill
And the city towers of Babel are again restored.
But God
Grinds
These cites into empty fields,
Stirring the word.

In silence, the street dragged on the ordeal.
A scream stood erect on the gullet’s road.
While fat taxies and cabs were bristling still,
Wedged in the throat.
As if from consumption,
The trodden chest gasped for air.

The city, with gloom, blocked the road rather fast.

And when —
Nevertheless! —
The street coughed up the strain onto the square
And pushed the portico off its throat, at last,
It seemed as if,
Accompanied by the choirs of an archangel’s chorus,
Recently robbed, God would show us His heat!

But the street squatted down and yelled out coarsely:
“Let’s go eat!”

The Krupps and the Krupplets gather around
To paint menacing brows on the city,
While in the gorge
Corpses of words are scatted about,–
Two live and thrive,–
“Swine”
And another one,–
I believe “borsch”.

And poets, soaking in sobs and complaining,
Run from the street, resentful and sour:
“With those two words there’s no way to portray now
A beautiful lady,
Or love
Or a dew-covered flower.”

And after the poets,
Thousands of others stampeded:
Students,
Prostitutes,
Salesmen.

Gentlemen,
Stop!
You are not the needy;
So how dare you to beg them, gentlemen!

Covering yards with each stride,
We are healthy and ardent!
Don’t listen to them, but thrash them instead!
Them,
Who are stuck like a free add-on
To each king-size bed!

Are we to ask them humbly:
“Help us, please!”
Imploring them for hymns
And oratorios?
We are the creators with the burning hymns
To the hum of the mills and laboratories.

Why should I care about Faust?
In a fairy display of the fireworks’ loot,
He’s gliding with Mephistopheles on the parquet of galaxies!
I know–
A nail in my boot
Is more frightening than Goethe’s fantasies!

I am
The most golden-mouthed,
With every word I am giving
The body a name-day,
And the soul a rebirth,
I assure you:
The minutest speck of the living
Is worth more than all that I’ll ever do on this earth!

Listen!
The present-day Zarathustra,
Wet with sweat,
Is dashing around you and preaching here.
We,
With faces crumpled like a bed spread,
With lips sagging like a chandelier,
We,
The Leprous City detainees,
Where, from filth and gold, lepers’ sores were raised,
We are purer than the Venetian azure seas,
Washed by the sunshine’s balmy rays.

I spit on the fact
That Homer and Ovid didn’t create
Soot-covered with pox,
Men like us all,
But at the same time, I know
That the sun would fade
If it looked at the golden fields of our souls.

Muscles are surer than prayers to us!
We won’t pray for aid any more!
We–
Each one of us–
Holds in his grasp
The driving reins of the world!

This led to Golgotha in the auditoriums
Of Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa,
And there wasn’t one of you
Who wasn’t imploring thus:
“Crucify him!”
Teach him a lesson!”
But to me,–
People,
Even those of you who were mean,–
To me, you are dear and I love you with passion.

Haven’t you seen
A dog licking the hand that it’s being thrashed by?

I am laughed at
By the present-day tribe.
They’ve made
A scabrous joke out of me.
But I can see crossing the mountains of time,
Him, whom the others can’t see.

Where men’s sight falls short,
Wearing the revolutions’ thorny crown,
Leading at the head of the hungry horde,
The year 1916 is coming around.

Among you, his precursor,
Wherever there’s pain, I’ll be near.
I have nailed myself to the cross there,
On every single drop of a tear.
There’s nothing left to pardon now!
In souls that bred pity, I burnt out the fields.
That is much harder than
Taking a thousand thousands of Bastilles.

And when
His advent announcing,
Joyful and proud,
You’ll step up to greet the savior–
I will drag
My soul outside,
And trample it
Until it spreads out!
And give it to you, red in blood, as a flag.

Part III

Ah, how and wherefrom
Did it come to this
That the dirty fists of madness
Against the luminous joy were raised in the air?

She came,–
The thought of a madhouse
And curtained my head with despair.

And
As in the Dreadnought’s downfall
With chocking spasms
The men jumped into the hatch, before the ship died,
The crazed Burlyuk crawled on, passing
Through the screaming gaps of his eye.
Almost bloodying his eyelids,
He emerged on his knees,
Stood up and walked
And in the passionate mood,
With tenderness, unexpected from one so obese,
He simply said:
“Good!”

It’s good when from scrutiny a yellow sweater
Hides the soul!
It’s good when
On the gibbet, in the face of terror,
You shout:
“Drink Cocoa — Van Houten!”

This moment,
Like a Bengal light,
Crackling from the blast,
I wouldn’t exchange for anything,
Not for any money.

Clouded by cigar smoke,
And stretching like a liquor glass,
One could make out the drunken face of Severyanin.

How dare you call yourself a poet
And gray, like a quail, twitter away your soul!
When
With brass knuckles
This very moment
You have to split the world’s skull!

You,
With one thought alone in your head,
“Am I dancing with style?”
Look how happy I am
Instead,
I,–
A pimp and a fraud all the while.

From all of you,
Who soaked in love for plain fun,
Who spilled
Tears into centuries while you cried,
I’ll walk away
And place the monocle of the sun
Into my gaping, wide-open eye.

I’ll wear colorful clothes, the most outlandish
And roam the earth
To please and scorch the public,
And in front of me,
On a metal leash,
Napoleon will run like a little puppy.

Like a woman, quivering, the earth will lie down,
Wanting to give in, she will slowly slump.
Things will come alive
And from all around,
Their lips will lisp:
“Yum-yum-yum-yum-yum!”

Suddenly,
The clouds
And other stuff in the air
Stirred in some astonishing commotion,
As if the workers in white, up there,
Declared a strike, all bitter and emotional.

The savage thunder peeked out of the cloud, irate.
Snorting from huge nostrils, it howled
And for a moment, the face of the sky bent out of shape,
Resembling the iron Bismarck’s scowl.

And someone,
Entangled in the clouds’ maze,
To the café, stretched out his hand now:
Both, tender somehow,
And with a womanly face,
And at once, like a firing cannon.

You think
That’s the sun above the attics
Gently stretching to caress the cheeks of the café?
No, advancing again to slaughter the radicals
It’s General Galliffet!

Take your hands out of your pockets, wanderers –
Pick up a bomb, a knife or a stone
And if one happens to be armless,
Let him come to fight with his forehead alone!

Go on, starving,
Servile
And abused ones,
In this flea-swarming filth, do not rot!

Go on!
We’ll turn Mondays and Tuesdays
Into holidays, painting them with blood!
Remind the earth whom it tried to debase!
With your knives be rough!
The earth
Has grown fat like the mistress’ face,
Whom Rothschild had over-loved!

May the flags flutter in the line of fire
As they do on holidays, with a flare!
Hey, street-lamps, raise the traders up higher,
Let their carcasses hang in the air.

I cursed,
Stabbed
And hit in the face,
Crawled after somebody,
Biting into their ribs.

In the sky, red like La Marseillaise,
The sunset gasped with its shuddering lips.

It’s insanity!

Not a thing will remain from the war.

The night will come,
Bite into you
And swallow you stale.

Look–
Is the sky playing Judas once more,
With a handful of stars that were soaked in betrayal?

The night,
Like Mamai, feasted with delight,
Crushing the city with its bottom’s heft.
Our eyes won’t be able break through this night,
As black as Azef!

Slumped in the corner of the saloon, I sit,
Spilling wine on my soul and the floor,
And I see:
In the corner, round eyes are lit
And with them, Madonna bites the heart’s core.

Why bestow such radiance on this drunken mass?
What do they have to offer?
You see – once again,
They prefer Barabbas
Over the Man of Golgotha?

Maybe, deliberately,
In the human mash, not once
Do I wear a fresh-looking face.
I am,
Perhaps,
The handsomest of your sons
In the whole human race.

Give them,
The ones molded with delight,
A quick death already,
So that their children may grow up right;
Boys — into fathers
Girls — into pregnant ladies.

Like the wise men, let the new born babes
Grow gray with insight and thought
And they’ll come
To baptize the infants with names
Of the poems I wrote.

I praise the machine and the industrial Britain.
In some ordinary, common gospel,
It may perhaps, be written
That I’m the thirteenth apostle.

And when my voice rumbles bawdily,
Every evening,
For hours and hours,
awaiting my call,
Jesus, Himself, may be sniffling
The forget-me-nots of my soul.

Part IV

Maria! Maria!
Let me in, Maria!
Don’t leave me out on the street!
You can’t?
My cheeks cave in,
But you wait ruthlessly.
Soon, sampled by everyone,
Stale and pallid,
I’ll come out
And mumble toothlessly
That today I’m
“Remarkably candid.”

Maria,
You see–
My shoulders are drooping again.

In the streets, the men
Prick the fat in their four-story craws.
They show their eyes,
Worn out in the forty years of despair, and restless-
They snicker because
In my teeth,
Again,
I hold the hardened crust of last night’s caresses.

The rain wept over the sidewalks, —
That puddle-imprisoned fraudster.
The corpse of the street, clobbered by cobbles, soaked in its cries.
But the gray lashes–
Yes! —
The eyelashes of icicles became frosted
With tears from the eyes–
Yes! —
From the drainpipes’ overcast eyes.

Every pedestrian was licked by the rain’s snout:
Athletes glistened in the carriages on the street.
People burst
Overstuffed,
And their fat oozed out.
Like a muddy river, it streamed on the ground,
Together with juices from
A cud of old meat.

Maria!
How can I fit a tender word into bulging ears?
A bird
Sings for alms
With a hungry voice
Rather well,
But I am a man,
Maria,
Coughed up by the ailing night into Presnya’s filthy palms.

Maria, do you want me?
Maria, take me in, please.
With shivering fingers I’ll squeeze the iron throat of the bell!

Maria!

The pastures of streets turn wild and loud!
They’re squeezing my neck and I’m almost collapsing.

Open!

I’m hurt!

Look – my eyes are pricked out
By the common womanly hatpins!

You’ve opened the door.

My child!
Oh, don’t be alarmed!
You see these women,
Hanging on my neck like mountains, —
Through life, I drag with me
A million of massive, enormous, pure loves
And a million millions of filthy, disgusting lovelets.
Don’t be afraid
If betraying the vow
Of honesty,
Seeing a thousand pretty faces, I’ll throw myself at them, —
“Those, who love Mayakovsky!”-
Please, understand that that is the dynasty
Of the queens, who have mounted the heart of a madman.

Maria, closer!

Whether naked and shameless,
Or shivering in dismay,
Yield the wonder of your lips, so gentle:
My heart and I have never lived until May,
But in my past,
A hundreds of Aprils assembled.

Maria!
A poet sings praises to Tiana all day,
But I–
I’m made of flesh,
I’m a man, —
I ask for your body,
Like the Christians pray:
“Give us this day
Our daily bread.”

Maria, give it to me!

Maria!
I fear to forget your name
As a poet fears to forget under pressure
A word
He conceived in a restless night,
Equal to God in effect.

Your body
I shall continue to love and treasure
As a soldier
Amputated by war,
Alone
And unwanted,
Cherishes his remaining leg.

Maria, —
You won’t have me?
You won’t!

Ha!

Then gloomy and dismal,
Once more,
I shall carry
My tear-stained heart
Forward,
Like a dog,
Limping,
Carries the paw
That the speeding train had ran over.

With the blood from the heart I cheer the road that I roam,
Flowers cling to my jacket, making it dusty,
The sun will dance a thousand times round the earth,
Like Salome
Danced around the head of the Baptist.

And when my years, at their very end,
Will finish their dance and wrinkle,
A million bloodstains will spread
The path to my Father’s kingdom.

I’ll climb out
Filthy (sleeping in gullies all night),
And into his ears, I’ll whisper
While I stand
At his side:

“Mister God, listen!
Isn’t it tedious
To dip your generous eyes into clouds
Every day, every evening?
Let’s, instead,
Start a festive merry-go-round
On the tree of knowledge of good and evil!
Omnipresent, you’ll be all around us!
From the wine, all the fun will ensue
And Apostle Peter, who’s always been frowning,
Will perform the fast-paced dance — ki-ka-pu.
We’ll bring all the Eves back into Eden:
Order me
And I’ll go–
From the boulevards, I’ll pick up all the pretty girls needed
And bring them to you!

Should I?

No?

You’re shaking your curly head coarsely?
You’re knitting your brows like you’re rough?
Do you think
That this
Winged one, close by,
Knows the meaning of love?

I too am an angel; used to be one before–
With a sugar lamb’s eye, I stared at your faces,
But I don’t want to give presents to mares anymore, —
All the torture of Sevres that’s been made into vases.
Almighty, You created two hands,
And with care,
Made a head, and went down the list, —
But why did you make it
So that it pained
When one had to kiss, kiss, kiss?!

I thought that you were the Great God, Almighty
But you’re a miniature idol, — a dunce in a suit,
Bending over, I’m already reaching
For the knife that I’m hiding
At the top of my boot.

You, swindlers with wings,
Huddle in fright!
Ruffle your shuddering feathers, rascals!
You, reeking of incense, I’ll open you wide,
From here all the way to Alaska.

Let me go!

You can’t stop me!
Whether I’m right or wrong
Makes no difference,
I will not be calmer.
Look, —
The stars were beheaded all night long
And the sky is again bloody with slaughter.

Hey you,
Heaven!
Take your hat off,
When you see me near!

Silence.

The universe sleeps.
Placing its paw
Under the black, star-infested ear.

[1914]

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