A CLOUD IN PANTS (1914-1915)
By Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)
Selected translation by Vadim Astrakhan (2017)
Your thoughts, daydreaming
On your soft brain in peace,
Like a fat butler on a couch’s plastic,
With all of my heart’s blood I will tease
To the extreme, caustic and sarcastic.
Not one gray hair in my soul.
No elderly tenderness you find there.
I walk and thunder through the world,
A beautiful man of twenty-two years.
set their love
to the drumbeat,
set it to violins.
But I bet you cannot turn inside out
So there’d be nothing but lips, lips, and lips!
Watch and learn! Both a proper lady
from a social circle of angelic contingent,
and the one who flips
like pages of a cook book in the kitchen.
You want it? – I am a deranged piece of meat!
You want it? – I’ll change at a glance.
I will be perfectly gentle and sweet:
not a man, but a cloud in pants.
I don’t believe in flowery Nice.
I’m here to praise with passion
men, washed out like hospital sheets,
worn out like an expression.
Think this is delirium of malaria?
It happened. I’m sure. I am.
“I’ll be there at four,” said Maria.
The grim December evening straggled
Away from my window
into the dark.
Behind my back the lamps cackle
You wouldn’t recognize me anyhow:
A mountain of sinews, crying in anguish.
What can this mountain wish for, now?
For quite a lot it can wish!
I don’t care, all of a sudden,
That I’m of bronze, with a heart of steel.
Just want to snuggle my ringing sound
In the soft and female feel.
Massive, I slouch at the window.
My forehead is melting the glass.
Love? No love? What will I win now?
Will it be tiny or vast?
I wait. And wait. And wait in vain.
I can only wait and stare
Into the pockmarked face of rain
As the urban tides
Awash my lair.
Awash my lair.
The dagger of the midnight’s bell
Caught me, cut me down, dreaded.
The twelfth hour fell
Like a head
of the beheaded.
Gray droplets and streaks savagely grimace
Behind the window, wailing free,
Howling, like the chimeras
Of Notre Dame de Paris.
Damn you! Is this not enough?
The scream will soon tear up my lips!
Quietly, like a sick man sliding off
Bed, a nerve
Stumbled slightly, like in a trance,
Then ran a few times, back and forth,
And then, in a frantic tap dance
It was joined by other nerves.
The night oozed into my room and swelled
Suddenly the doors downstairs clattered.
As if the teeth of the hotel
You walked in,
And with a merciless blow,
Choking the gloves you carried,
You said: “You know
“I’m getting married.”
Fine, go ahead. I think I can
Take it. I take it in stride.
See? I’m calm like a pulse of a man
You were saying (I didn’t listen):
“Love,” “passion,” “money,” “Jack London”…
I looked at you and saw Mona Lisa
That must be stolen.
And stolen you were.
Now I’ll go and play.
The fiery curve of my brow flawless.
A house that was destroyed by flame
Is sometimes occupied by the homeless.
You teased me! You said: “A man impoverished
“Has more pennies than you have crazy diamonds!”
When Vesuvius was driven out of his mind.
Hey, you! Voyeurs with no soul
of crimes and massacres,
as spoiled as they come!
Have you seen the scariest sight of all:
My face, when I am perfectly calm?
And I feel: for me, I am too small!
I’m coming out! Busting out, rather.
“Will you take this call?”
“Hello? Who is speaking?”
Mother! Your son is beautifully ill!
Mother! His heart is on fire!
Tell his sisters his last will
He has nowhere to run or retire!
Every word and attempt at humor
That his smoldering mouth offers.
like a naked hooker,
from a burning, smoking whorehouse.
People sniffed: “Something’s cooking.”
came, ready to handle.
Tell the firemen and onlookers:
“With a burning heart, one must be gentle.”
I will supply the barrels of tears.
Lean on my ribs
and let’s start!
Escape, escape, escape from here!
Can’t escape my own heart.
As my cindered lips struggle to bring
A charcoal of a kiss out of this fire,
Mother, I cannot sing!
My heart’s chapel provides the choir.
Trembling people fled the blaze,
Hurried home to find their sanctuary…
My final scream!
It now relays
that I am on fire – to the centuries!
I’m greater than all!
Everything with “NIHIL,” with no second look!
I want to read nothing ever again!
Books? What books?
I used to think
The books are made like this:
A poet walks in, opens up, and so
An inspired simpleton smoothly sings…
Here you go!
Turns out: before the singing time
They stumble around in throes of fermentation.
Quietly flaps in the heart’s slime
A stupid fish of imagination.
Distill some insipid swill that rhymes
Of nightingales and passions, steaming…
Meanwhile the tongue-less Street writhes:
Nothing to speak with, nothing to scream with.
The Babel Towers of our cities
we erect all over the world.
But God destroys them without pity
by mixing words.
The Street onward pushed its anguish.
The Scream in the throat was stuck.
Bony carriages and chubby taxis
and the windpipe blocked.
Flatchesting the pedestrian routs,
Dark city locked them…
Then into the square
the stampede was finally coughed out,
knocking aside the cathedral’s stairs.
As if the angelic chants blared out,
to smite us for our crimes!
But the Street just squatted and howled:
Steel and concrete adorn the city’s bosom.
Dead words in the mouth
Only two words thrive and blossom:
And another one, I think “borscht.”
The poets scampered, scratching and sobbing,
Away from the Street, a pathetic whirl.
“How can we use these two in a sonnet
and pretty girls?”
The Street chased after the poets:
Students, prostitutes, contractors, and crowds.
You are no beggars, you know it!
You have no right to ask for handouts!
Our step is wide!
We are humongous!
We shouldn’t beg, but rip them to shreds:
The leeches that come free with a purchase,
Stuck to every queen-sized bed.
Should we ever beg them,
For the anthem and for the oratory?
We are the Creators of burning anthem:
The noise of factory and laboratory!
Faust! I have no use for you,
Riding rockets through heaven’s gothics.
The nail in my shoe
Is scarier than the imagination of Goethe.
The golden mouth, whose every word
Revives the bodies and souls anew,
The smallest speck of life is worth
than what I have ever done or will do.
Preaching, thrashing in heat,
A modern day Zarathustra is here!
We, with the face like a crumpled bed sheet
And lips, hanging like a chandelier,
We, the Leprosy City tenants,
Where gold and dirt break out in sores
Cleaner than the azure of Venice
That bathes in the sunlight
At the seashore.
Who cares if Homer and Ovid made
No mention of our dirt in a single chorus.
I know: the sun itself would fade
Next to our souls’ golden ores!
Muscles and sinews are stronger than prayers.
Don’t beg for the mercy of time – demand!
Each one of us holds the conveyors
Of the world
In the palm of our hand!
All of this brought me to the Golgothas
Of reading halls.
In every city, every time,
Every audience, every man offers:
“Crucify ‘im! Crucify ‘im!”
Even those that scorn and mock!
This man still loves you so much, he bleeds it!
Ever seen a dog
That licks the very hand that beats it?
By today’s thousands,
Like a joke, drawn-out and obscene,
I alone see the One
Walking over the mountains
For all of you – unseen!
Where the human eye fails in confusion,
The hungry hordes loom:
Wearing the crown of thorns of revolutions
Year 16 brings doom.
I am its harbinger! Everywhere
I am of pain and loss!
In every drop of every tear
I nail myself to a cross.
No forgiveness left in store!
I scorch the souls of love and ideals!
This is even harder than to storm
Thousands upon thousands of Bastilles!
So when you all come out in rebellion
To greet the Savior, I’ll rip out the rag
Of my soul, trample on it, till vermilion,
And raise it above you,
As a flag!
What’s with a dirty fist swinging towards
The good time and fun over there?
The thought of psychiatric wards
and curtained my brain in despair.
Like submarine sailors, not waiting to die,
Squeeze through the hatch’s hole,
Through his screaming, torn up eye
Mad Futurist Burliuk crawled.
His tear-gassed eyelids almost bloody,
He crawled out, then upright stood,
And then, with tenderness, unexpected from such a fatty,
He suddenly uttered: “Good!”
It’s good when your soul is safe in the yellow
sweater from all the poking!
It’s good when you’re being fed to the gallows,
yet shout a commercial slogan!
I wouldn’t trade this firework of a moment
For anything in the world, for any…
Then a blotto face of a decadent poet
from the cigar smoke and brandy.
Think you’re a poet, you and your bunch?
You chirp like a little bird!
These days one must be a brass-knuckled punch,
Cracking the skull of the world!
You, obsessed with a single thought
“Do I look hot and sharp?”
See how I roll: a never-been-caught
And a poker shark!
Away from your poetry, love-soaked cry,
Tear-jerkers at Time’s expense!
I will walk
and into my eye
insert the sun
for a contact lens.
Wearing impossibly garish clothes
I strut: burning, and charming, and smug,
and on a golden chain,
so bright, it glows,
I walk Napoleon like a pug.
The earth itself will be my wife,
spread her legs, and squirm in heat.
Inanimate objects will come to life
and move their lips,
talking dirty and sweet.
Suddenly the clouds and other fluff
quake the heavenly Reich.
As if the pale workers way above
declared an angry strike.
And someone, in the clouds entangled,
extends his hands to the boulevard:
like a woman, gentle and tender,
but also firm, like a bulwark.
Is it the sun, tapping in peace
a coffee shop’s cheek, nice and cute?
As if! Here comes the riot police
with the order to shoot!
Hey, passers-by! Grab knives and bombs!
Take your hands out of pockets now!
And if, for instance, you have no arms
with your head knock it down!
The flea-infested and the useless,
The hungries, the sweaties, the humblies!
Let the Mondays and the Tuesdays
Become the blood-soaked holidays!
My knife will make the earth regret
that whole seduction business!
that has grown fat
like billionaire’s mistress.
Let me see the banners fly
like those that on holidays greet us.
Let the lampposts raise high
the bloodied corpses of shopkeepers!
Cursing, and begging, and slashing – yes!
I tore into someone’s side!
The sky turned red like La Marseillaise!
The sunset convulsed and died!
This is all madness. Nothing will happen.
The night will come, and chew, and gulp.
The sky is Judas. It sets the trap, and
Treason shines in every star bulb.
Thrown in a pub, I shiver and spill
Wine on my table and soul.
From her corner the Virgin’s eyes drill
In me two burning holes.
Why waste your hackneyed painted shine
On the crowd of drunks and scrubbers?
See how they choose, time after time,
Over the Savior – Barabbas!
Maybe on purpose in this human soup
My face is just like everyone’s.
Maybe I am, in all of my soot,
The prettiest of your sons.
Quick death to those that molded happily!
Quick death to all the stagnant!
Let their children grow rapidly:
Little boys – fathers!
Little girls – pregnant!
They will grow, their hair will gray,
Like the Three Magi to my home
and christen their babies one day
with the names of my poems.
I praise the Machine and the English castles,
And it’s entirely possible
that in the most common of gospels
I am the thirteenth apostle!
My vulgar voice pounds and slams,
all day long, twenty-four hours!
Maybe that’s when Jesus smells
my soul’s delicate flowers.
Maria, Maria, Maria!
Let me in!
I can’t do this in public!
Don’t want it?
Just wait till I start to crumble:
The blandest and the corniest,
I will come to you and toothlessly mumble
How today I am “brutally honest.”
I am already crumbling…
How can I squeeze my word into their fat ears?
A bird panhandles with a tweet,
singing its hungry note.
But I’m just a man,
in a fit of consumption
coughed out into the street.
Would you take such a man, my dear?
Maria, let me in!
My fingers are twitching and choking
The doorbell’s plastic throat.
The streets are wild! My skin
Is scratched by a stomping crowd.
From my eyes stick out.
She opened. Baby, don’t be scared
That on my neck
Women pile up, dripping with sweat:
It’s just that through life
A million of humongous true loves I carry
And many millions of small dirty lovettes.
Don’t be afraid
That in my dishonesty
I’ll cheat with a thousand cuties, a la carte.
“Mayakovsky’s Mistresses” – that’s a dynasty
Of queens reigning over my crazy heart.
Don’t be afraid!
Give me your beauty, naked and shameless!
My heart and I never made it to May
But already lived through a hundred Aprils.
Poets sing their sonnets, silly,
I am – of flesh, a man to the end.
I beg for your body, like Christians, simply:
“Give us today our daily bread.”
Maria, give me!
I am afraid to forget your name
Like a poet is afraid to forget the word
Born in torment, a God-like speck!
I will love and cuddle your body
Like a soldier, crippled by war,
Cuddles his only leg.
Maria, you don’t want me?
Ha! So… again,
I’ll drench my heart in tears, and, gentle,
Carry it like dog
was run over by a train
carries it back to the kennel.
My heart’s blood pleasures the road’s
The sun at its brightest
Dances around the earth like Herodias
Around the head of the Baptist.
And when my life runs out of days
Waltzing by, one after another,
A million of scarlet droplets will trace
My way to the house of my father.
Having slept in a ditch, I’ll smear
Around my face the dirt,
Walk up to him, lean down to his ear:
“Listen, Mr. Lord!
“Isn’t it boring how you drown
Yourself in these clouds of vanilla?
Here! Let’s make a merry-go-round
on the tree
of good and evil!
“Omnipresent, you will be in every room!
We’ll put out wines of such quality,
That Apostle Peter will shed his gloom
And join the party!
“We’ll put the Eves back in the garden.
I’ll have them delivered, pronto:
The prettiest boulevard girls at a bargain!
What, you don’t want to?
“You shake your head, your arms are folded.
You think you’ve had enough?
You think the winged one, behind your shoulder,
Really knows love?”
I once was an angel too. I stared,
Like cotton candy, into someone’s face.
But I won’t endow another mare
With my latest priceless porcelain vase.
“Almighty, you gave us an assortment:
A head and a pair of hands to exist.
Why couldn’t you make it so, without torment,
We could kiss, kiss, and kiss?!”
I thought you were an omnipotent brute,
And you are a loser, living trife!
See, I’m bowing
and out of my boot
pulling a utility knife!
Winged scoundrels! I’m out for blood!
Shake feathers in fear,
As I unmask you!
I’ll split you open, sweet-smelling God,
From here to Alaska!
Let me go! You cannot stop it!
You think I’m lying? Or within my right?
I can’t calm down.
The stars are slaughtered,
Beheaded, and bled out into the night.
You! Heaven! Here I go!
Remove your hat!
… All quiet here.
The Universe is asleep,
Resting on its paw,
With the ticks of stars,
its humongous ear.