“The Man” (“Человек”)
By Vladimir Mayakovsky (1917)
Why am I running?
Hundreds of streets are flying by.
I see the human hives humming,
Hot and disgusting in July.
Windows are becoming grayer,
Tired city puts them out.
Only sunset, the bloody slayer,
Disembowels the clouds.
A spectacular bridge.
And anxiously stare down at the shimmer.
I reckon: I’ve seen this somewhere in time.
It was then known as “Neva River.”
A city was here.
A senseless city,
Lost in the forest of chimney smokes.
I recall the nights, glass-beady,
Always ready to play a hoax.
July is dying. Night-less and static.
The fever dreams, the whispers, the sirens,
I spot the cross of the paramedics.
I hear shots. More shots. Then – silence.
For someone like me it’s easy to get
It’s weird, I swear:
Faces instead of streetlamps… and yet
I know I’ve seen this twitching somewhere.
There you are! On the rooftop’s crest.
You harvest the glare of the midnight sun.
I reach out, but you’re gone with the mist,
Leaving me here, standstill and stunned.
Straight through the midnight crowd’s noise
I smell the skin. I feel it almost.
Almost the breath. Almost the voice.
I thought it’s a ghost. Alive came the ghost!
Emerges from the confines of air.
One isn’t enough! She is now a procession!
My zombie heart jumps up in despair,
My earthly torments are back in full flare!
Long live – again! — my dark obsession!
Same lamps in the middle of the street.
Same building. Can’t have missed it.
Same horse’s head by the door.
the sign. “Hey, mister!
“Is this Zhukovsky Street?”
In horror he stares,
Dodges me. Blurts out: “Are you kidding?
“It’s been ‘Mayakovsky’ for hundreds of years!
“He shot himself here by his love’s building.”
Who shot himself? I did? That’s some lie!
Heart, shine with joy! Now I am heading
To her window. I fly.
(The trick I picked up in heaven)
It’s here. I’m pretty certain.
At the right floor I pause,
Take a peak behind the curtains.
The bedroom. Same as it was.
A thousand years later you’re still young!
The moon in your hair and in your bed.
Next moment what I thought was the moon
Turned out to be a man’s bald head.
Now I got you! Sleep no more!
Grasp the wasp of the dagger, hand!
I’m sneaking in and, like before,
Backing away in love and lament.
Lights on. The eyes bulge at the view.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Nikolaev, an engineer.
“This is my apartment. Who are you?
“Why are you bothering my wife here?”
A wrong room. A chilling mistake.
Her lips shaking in dismay,
A stranger woman, bare naked…
Like a shredded shadow I fall.
The tenants in robes
run out of their suites.
Moonlit, I fly down the wall.
Crash into concrete.
Hold the concierge to the wall, pinned out.
“From 42… Where is she, you bloody…”
“The legend goes: she jumped out the window
“And lay there on top of his body.”
Where do I go now? Where do I belong?
Over the hills, far away?
La-la-la-la, la-la, ding-dong!
The scorching summer. The sunrays twist
Around my neck at the hackles.
The handcuffs rattle on my wrists:
The love’s millennial shackles.
The world will end.
Will come to pass.
And He, who used to man it,
Will make the last star shine its last
Over the dark of planets.
And yet my pain will be the same.
I’m at the stake, engulfed,
Entwined in the undying flame
Of all-consuming love.
Take this vagrant again into your fold!
To which heaven now? Which star remains?
A thousand churches of the world
“Rest his soul with the saints.”