You will (as sometimes
laugh; you will (as clairvoyants
say) roar with laughter, gentlemen—
but, word of honor,
I have a crony,
would be thrilled to shake hands
with the head of a state or of any other
Since when, I wonder,
in the pit of the stomach
we’ve begun to experience a tender
bubbling, when looking through an opera glass
at the burly one, bristly haired, in the grand box?
Since when the concept
of authority has been equated
with the seminal notion of patria?
All sorts of Romans and butchers;
Charles the Handsome and Charles the Hideous;
utterly rotten princelings; fat-breasted
German ladies; and various
cannibals, loverboys, lumbermen,
Johns, Lewises, Lenins,
emitting stool grunts of strain and release,
propping elbows on knees,
sat on their massive old thrones.
The historian dies of sheer boredom:
On the heels of Mamay comes another Mamay.
Does our plight really force us to do
what did bureaucratic Cathay
that with heaps of superfluous centuries
augmented her limited history
(which, however, hardly became
either better or merrier)?
Per contra, the coachmen of empires look good
when performing their duties: swiftly
toward them flies the blue of the sky;
their flame-colored sleeves clap in the wind;
the foreign observer looks on and sees
in front bulging eyes of great beauty
and behind a beautiful blend
of divan cushion and monstrous pumpkin.
But the decorated big fellow or else
the trench-coated wolf
in his army cap with a German steep peak,
hoarse-voiced, his face all distorted,
speaking from an immobile convertible,
or, again, a banquet
with Caucasian wine.
No, thank you.
If my late namesake,
who used to write verse, in rank
and in file, at the very dawn
of the Soviet Small-Bourgeois order,
had lived till its noon
he would be now finding taut rhymes
such as “praline”
or “air chill,”
and others of the same kind.