To his own beloved self the author dedicates these lines


As heavy as a blow.

“Render unto God… render unto Caesar…”

But where is someone

like me

to go?

What refuge or shelter is there?

If only I were


like the Pacific Ocean,--

I’d rise on the tiptoes of waves

to caress the moon with the tide.

Where shall I find a love

of my own proportions?

She’d never fit beneath the miniature sky!

Oh, if only I were poor!

like a millionaire!

What’s cash for the soul?--

a thief driven by greed.

The gold of all californias, I swear,

isn’t enough for the ravenous hordes of my needs.

Oh, if only I were tongue-tied

like Dante

or Petrarch!

I’d ignite my soul for a single love!

and with poetry, I'd set her ablaze!

If my words

and my love

were a triumphal arch:

the inamoratas of all the ages,

would pass through it gallantly,

leaving no trace.

Oh, if only I were


like thunder,--

I’d moan

and the earth would tremble, languished.

If I allow my vast voice

to rumble,--

the comets, wringing their burning arms,

would plunge in anguish.

I would gnaw the nights with the rays of eyes,--

if I were as dim as the sun,

I’d shine!

Why should I feed

the earth’s scrawny bosom

with my brilliant, radiant light?!

I shall go on,

dragging behind me my love’s huge clod.

In that remarkable night,--


feverish and haunted,--

by what Goliaths was I begot,

so enormous

and so unwanted?
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

Something about the Conductor

The restaurant was rouge from the electricity.

Chairs were soaked with the flesh of the feminine heap.

When the insulted conductor rushed in and explicitly

commanded musicians to weep.

And, right away, the trumpet – swinging -

smacked the sated muzzle with a handful of copper tears

on the one who lifted the thick salmon, bringing

it deliciously close to his beard.

In-between his hiccups, before he could

push a cry into his golden jaw,

the others, battered by trombones and the bassoon,

rushed by, trampling him below.

When the last one, crawling to the door weakly,

with his cheek in the sauce, dropped dead,

commanding musicians to howl beastly –

the conductor went totally mad!

Into the very teeth of the drunken carcass,

he squeezed the horn like a copper white loaf,

and blowing, listened how in the belly’s darkness

the blown-up cry, doubled in size, rung off.

When in the morning, the owner appeared,

hungry and livid, to show him the bill,

the conductor hung off the grand chandelier,

blue as he was, and turned bluer still.
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian


Tobacco smoke eats the air away.

The room,--

a chapter from Kruchenykh’s Inferno.


by the window,

that day,

I caressed you ecstatically, with fervor.

Here you sit now,

with your heart in iron armor.

In a day,

you’ll scold me perhaps

and tell me to leave.

Frenzied, the trembling arm in the gloomy parlor

will hardly be able to fit the sleeve.

I’ll rush out

and hurl my body into the street,--


lashed by despair

and sadness.

There’s no need for this,

my darling,

my sweet.

Let’s part tonight and end this madness.

Either way,

my love is

an arduous weight,

hanging on you

wherever you flee.

Let me bellow out in the final complaint

all of my heartbroken misery.

A laboring bull, if he had enough,

will leave

and find cool water to lie in.

But for me,

there’s no sea

except for your love,--

from which even tears won’t earn me some quiet.

If an elephant wants to relax, he’ll lie,

pompous, outside in the sun-baked dune,

Except for your love,

there’s no sun

in the sky

and I don’t even know where you are and with whom.

If you thus tormented another poet,


would trade in his love for money and fame.


nothing sounds as precious to me

as the ringing sound of your darling name.

I won’t drink poison,

or jump to demise,

or pull the trigger to take my own life.

Except for your eyes,

no blade can control me,

no sharpened knife.

Tomorrow you’ll forget

that it was I who crowned you,

who burned out the blossoming soul with love

and the days will form a whirling carnival

that will ruffle my manuscripts and lift them above…

Will the dry autumn leaves of my sentences

cause you to pause,

breathing hard?

Let me

pave a path with the final tenderness

for your footsteps as you depart.
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

A violin and a little nervous

The violin was panicking, imploring

and suddenly burst into tears,

so child-like and pesky

that the drum couldn't stand it:

"All right, all right, all right!"

It got weary, couldn't wait till the violin finished,

slipped out onto the gleaming Kuznetsky

and took flight.

The curious orchestra looked on as

the violin wept itself out,

without words

or cadence

and only the nearby seated,

foolish cymbals

kept banging:

“What is it?

Who did it?”

And when the helicon,


and covered with sweat,




get some sense!”

across the notes,

I staggered ahead

over the horror-struck music stands.

For some reason, I cried out:


and reached for its wooden face:

“Violin, we are similar

don’t you see that?

I also

shout a lot

and like you, I can’t prove my case!”

The musicians laugh:

“He’s been caught

by a wooden girl, - what could be better?!

He’s mad!”

But I don’t care what they say

I’m a good guy…

Hey, violin, you know what?

Let’s live together

Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian



if the stars are lit,

then someone must need them, of course?

then someone must want them to be there,

calling those droplets of spittle pearls?

And wheezing,

in the blizzards of midday dust,

he rushes to God,

fearing he’s out of time

and sobbing,

he kisses God’s sinewy hands,

tells Him that it’s important,

pleads to Him that the star must shine!


that he won’t survive the starless torment!

And later,

he wanders, worried,

though seemingly calm and fit,

and tells somebody:

“Finally, nothing can

frighten you,



if the stars are lit,

then someone must really need them?

then it is essential

that at least one star


over the rooftops each night?!
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

About Petersburg

From rooftops, tears seeped into pipes

and to the river’s arm drew streaks,

while lips, suspended from the skies,

continued sucking on stone teats.

The sky, relaxed, could now see clearly:

along the sea's resplendent channel,

the sweating cameleer drove wearily

The Neva’s lazy, two-humped camel.
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

I smeared the weekday map

I smeared the weekday map, in passing,

while splashing paint from a glass;

revealed upon a plate of aspic

the ocean’s angled cheeks at last.

In scales of a tin fish, hidden,

I’ve read the calls of lips yet mute.

Could you

have played a nocturne


a common drainpipe for a flute?
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian