Poetry Wednesday: Mayakovsky

Russian Futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky is a hard poet to talk about. A dedicated Communist in the beginning, a hopeful comrade who saw a brighter future on the horizon…And was fairly quickly slandered by a regime that didn’t appreciate or understand him. He had a tumultuous life, filled with disastrous love affairs. He was a complicated man. I don’t doubt he had thoughts of suicide, but I highly doubt the official version of events that has come out of the Soviet propaganda machine.

What is not in doubt is his talent. Even in translation, his poems are powerful and direct. He was clearly a person who lived with his heart and soul exposed, taking in and experiencing the world in a powerful and direct way. It’s a common enough story, I suppose. To be sensitive is to be vulnerable. A poet must necessarily bare themselves to be great. And that door swings both ways…

Listen!

Listen,
if stars are lit
it means – there is someone who needs it.
It means – someone wants them to be,
that someone deems those specks of spit
magnificent.

And overwrought,
in the swirls of afternoon dust,
he bursts in on God,
afraid he might be already late.
In tears,
he kisses God’s sinewy hand
and begs him to guarantee
that there will definitely be a star.
He swears
he won’t be able to stand
that starless ordeal.

Later,
He wanders around, worried,
but outwardly calm.

And to everyone else, he says:
‘Now,
it’s all right.
You are no longer afraid,
are you?’

Listen,
if stars are lit,
it means – there is someone who needs it.
It means it is essential
that every evening
at least one star should ascend
over the crest of the building.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky
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