A Cloud in Pants (1915)

by Vladimir Mayakovsky
 
 
 
Selected translation
 
=====
PROLOGUE
 
Your thoughts, daydreaming
On your soft brain in peace,
Like a fat servant on the 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.
 
The rough set their love to drums.  The sweet
Set it to violins.
But you can't turn inside out, I bet,
So there would be nothing but lips.
 
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 in fashion
Men, washed out like hospital sheets,
And women, worn out like an expression.
 
 
=====
PART I
 
Think this is delirium of malaria?
It happened. I'm sure. I am.
"I'll be there at four," said Maria.
Eight.
Nine.
Ten pm.
 
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!
 
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.
 
The dagger of the midnight's bell
Caught me, cut me down, dreaded.
The twelfth hour fell
Like a head
of the beheaded.
 
Damn you! Is this not enough?
The scream will soon tear up my lips!
Quietly, like a sick man sliding off
Bed, a nerve 
slid down 
and tripped.
 
The night oozed into my room and swelled
Suddenly the doors downstairs clattered.
As if the teeth of the hotel
Chattered.
 
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
Who died.
 
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!"
Remember:
Pompeii perished,
When Vesuvius was driven out of his mind.
 
Hey, you!  Voyeurs with no soul
of crimes and massacres, as bad 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.
"Hello?"
"Will you take this call?"
"Hello? Who is speaking?"
"Mother?"
 
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.
Leaps out
Like a naked hooker,
From a burning, smoking whorehouse.
 
People sniffed:  “Something’s cooking.”
Shiny helmets 
came, ready to handle.
No boots!  
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!
Collapsed.
Can’t escape my own heart.
 
As my cindered lips struggled 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,
Hoping at home to find their sanctuary…
My final scream!   
It now relays
That I am on fire – to the centuries!
 
 
=====
PART II
 
Praise me!  I am greater than the greats!
I brand
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
Ridged up, 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,
And God
descended
to smite us for our crimes!
But the Street just squatted and howled:
“Dinner time!”
 
Steel and concrete adorn the city’s bosom.
Dead words in the mouth 
Decompose, besmirched.
Only two words live ´╗┐happily and blossom:
“Asshole”
And some other one, possibly “borscht.”
 
The poets scampered, pathetically sobbing,
Scratching their heads,
Away from the Street:
“How can we use these two in a sonnet
Of love, and flowers, and girls we meet?”
 
The Street then ran chasing the poets.
Students, prostitutes, contractors, and crowds.
Gentlemen, stop!
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.
 
Why
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.
I know:  
The nail in my shoe
Is scarier than the imagination of Goethe.
 
The golden mouth, whose every word
Revives the bodies and souls anew,
I say:
The smallest speck of life is worth
More than what I have done or will do.
 
Listen!
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's tenants
Where gold and dirt break out in sores
We shine
Cleaner than the azure of Venice,
Bathing at the sunlight’s seashore.
 
Who cares if Homer and Ovid made
No mention of our dirt in a single chorus.
I know:  the sun itself would fade 
Compared 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!”
 
But people,
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?
 
Laughed at
By today’s thousands,
Like a joke, drawn-out and obscene,
I alone see the One 
Walking over the mountains
Of time,
For all of you – unseen!
 
Where the human eye fails in confusion,
The starving hordes loom:
Wearing the crown of thorns of revolutions
Year 16 brings doom.
 
I am its harbinger!  Everywhere
I am of pain and loss!
On every drop of every tear
I nailed myself to a cross.
 
No forgiveness left in store!
I scorch the souls of love and ideals!
This is even harder than to storm
A thousand 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 over you, as a flag!
 
 
=====

PART III

 
What's with a dirty fist swinging towards
The good time and fun over there?
The thought of psychiatric wards
came
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
Appeared
Out of the cigar smoke and brandy.
 
How dare you call yourself a poet
And chirp like a little bird?
You should be a brass knuckles punch and throw it
Into 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
Pimp 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’ll bring Napoleon like a pug.
 
Suddenly the clouds and other fluff
Quaked the heavenly Reich.
As if the pale workers way above
Declared an angry strike.
 
Hey, passers-by! Grab knives and bombs!
Take your hands out of pockets now!
And if, for instance, you have no arms
With your forehead knock it down!
 
Go, the flea-infested and the useless,
The hundgries, the sweaties, the humblies!
Let the Mondays and the Tuesdays
Become the blood-soaked holidays!
 
Let me see the banners fly
Like those that on the holidays greet us.
Let the lampposts raise high
The bloodied corpses of shopkeepers!
 
Cursing, and begging, and cutting – yes!
Tearing 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 Judas is setting the trap, and
Treason shines in every star bulb.
 
Then in a pub I shiver and spill
Wine on the table and the soul.
From her corner the Virgin’s eyes drill
In me two burning holes.
 
Why do you bother charming the crowd
Of drunks with your painted shine?
See how they choose Barabbas out
Of two prisoners, time after time!
 
Maybe on purpose in this human soup
My face is just like everyone’s.
Maybe I am in all of my soot
The most beautiful 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,
As their wanderlust roams.
They'll come and christen their babies one day
with the names of my poems.
 
I praise the machine and the banks of Normandy
And it’s entirely possible
That in the gospel – common, ordinary –
I am the thirteenth apostle!
 
My voice thunders like a hundred bells
All day long, twenty-four hours.
Maybe that’s when Jesus smells
My soul’s delicate flowers.
 
 
=====

PART IV

 

Maria, Maria, Maria!

Let me go!
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.”
See, Maria
I am already crumbling.
 
Maria!
How can I squeeze my word into their fat ears?
A bird panhandles with a tweet.
When it's hungry, it sings.
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 twitch and choke the button,
as the doorbell rings.
 
Maria!
The streets are wild! My skin
Is all scratched by a stomping crowd.
It hurts!
You see:
Women's pins
From my eyes are sticking out.
 
She opened. Baby, don't be scared
That on my neck
Women pile up, dripping with sweat:
Through my 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.
 
Maria, closer!
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!
 
Maria,
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,
Abandoned,
Cuddles his only leg.
 
Maria, you don’t want me?
Ha! That means – again,
I’ll drench my heart in tears, and, gentle,
Carry it like dog
Whose paw
Was run over by a train
Carries it back to the kennel.
 
And when the years of my life’s tale
Play out to the end, one after another,
The droplets of blood will mark the trail
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
your eyes in the clouds of vanilla?
Here! Let’s make a merry-go-round
on the tree
of knowledge
of good and evil!
 
“Omnipresent, you will be in every room!
We’ll put out the 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.  I used to stare,
Like cotton candy, into somebody's face.
But I won't endow another mare
With my newest 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!
Am I lying? Or within my right?
I can’t calm down.
See?
The stars are slaughtered,
Beheaded, and bled out into the night.
 
You! The sky! Here I go!
Remove your hat!
 
… All quiet here.
 
The Universe is asleep,
Resting on the paw,
With the ticks of stars, its humongous ear.
 

 



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