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To the Prologue To Part II
A Cloud in Trousers by Vladimir Mayakovsky translated from the Russian by Andrey Kneller Part I You think I’m delirious with malaria? This happened. In Odessa, this happened. “I’ll come at four,” promised Maria.2 Eight... Nine... Ten. Soon after, The evening, Frowning, And Decemberish,3 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,4 Money, Love and ardor,”-- I saw one thing only: You were La Gioconda,5 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 Pompeii6 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’s7 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?
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