raiseabove

Listen,
      comrades of posterity,
to the agitator
                  the rabble-rouser.

Stifling
        the torrents of poetry,
I’ll skip
        the volumes of lyrics;
as one alive,
               I’ll address the living.
I’ll join you
                in the far communist future,
I who am
          no Esenin super-hero.

My verse will reach you
                                   across the peaks of ages,
over the heads
                   of governments and poets.

My verse
          will reach you
not as an arrow
                     in a cupid-lyred chase,
not as worn penny
Reaches a numismatist,
not as the light of dead stars reaches you.

My verse
           by labor
                      will break the mountain chain of years,
and will present itself
                               ponderous,
                                              crude,
                                                     tangible,
as an aqueduct,
                    by slaves of Rome
constructed,
               enters into our days.

When in mounds of books,
                                      where verse lies buried,
you discover by chance the iron filings of lines,
touch them
              with respect,
                                as you would
some antique
                 yet awesome weapon.

It’s no habit of mine
                            to caress
                                        the ear
                                                 with words;
a maiden’s ear
                    curly-ringed
will not crimson
                      when flicked by smut.

In parade deploying
                            the armies of my pages,
I shall inspect
                   the regiments in line.

Heavy as lead,
                  my verses at attention stand,
ready for death
                    and for immortal fame.

The poems are rigid,
                             pressing muzzle
to muzzle their gaping
                                pointed titles.

The favorite
               of all the armed forces
the cavalry of witticisms
                                    ready
to launch a wild hallooing charge,
reins its chargers still,
                              raising
the pointed lances of the rhymes.
and all
        these troops armed to the teeth,
which have flashed by
                                victoriously for twenty years,
all these,
          to their very last page,
I present to you,
                      the planet’s proletarian.

The enemy
             of the massed working class
is my enemy too
                       inveterate and of long standing.

Years of trial
                  and days of hunger
                                               ordered us
to march
          under the red flag.

We opened
              each volume
                                of Marx
as we would open
                         the shutters
                                          in our own house;
but we did not have to read
                                        to make up our minds
which side to join,
                         which side to fight on.

Our dialectics
                  were not learned
                                           from Hegel.
In the roar of battle
                           it erupted into verse,
when,
      under fire,
                    the bourgeois decamped
as once we ourselves
                              had fled
                                          from them.
Let fame
           trudge
                   after genius
like an inconsolable widow
                                       to a funeral march -
die then, my verse,
                         die like a common soldier,
like our men
                who nameless died attacking!
I don’t care a spit
                        for tons of bronze;
I don’t care a spit
                         for slimy marble.
We’re men of  kind,
                           we’ll come to terms about our fame;
let our
       common monument be
socialism
            built
                  in battle.
Men of posterity
                       examine the flotsam of dictionaries:
out of Lethe
               will bob up
                               the debris of such words
as “prostitution,”
                     “tuberculosis,”
                                       “blockade.”
For you,
        who are now
                          healthy and agile,
the poet
         with the rough tongue
                                          of his posters,
has licked away consumptives’ spittle.
With the tail of my years behind me,
                                                       I begin to resemble
those monsters,
                    excavated dinosaurs.
Comrade life,
                  let us
                         march faster,
march
       faster through what’s left
                                              of the five-year plan.
My verse
           has brought me
                                 no rubles to spare:
no craftsmen have made
                                  mahogany chairs for my house.
In all conscience,
                        I need nothing
except
       a freshly laundered shirt.
When I appear
                    before the CCC
                                           of the coming
                                           bright years,
by way of my Bolshevik party card,
                                                     I’ll raise
above the heads
                     of a gang of self-seeking
                                                          poets and rogues,
all the hundred volumes
                                  of my
                                          communist-committed books.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, At the Top of my Voice (1930)