Maiakovskii in New York

Brooklyn Bridge

Give Coolidge
a shout of joy!
I too will spare no words
………………………………………..about good things.
Blush
……….at my praise,
………………………………go red as our flag,
however
……………united-states
………………………………….-of
-america you may be.
As a crazed believer
………………………………..enters
…………………………………………….a church,
retreats
……………into a monastery cell,
…………………………………………………austere and plain;
so I,
………in graying evening
………………………………………haze,
humbly set foot
………………………..on Brooklyn Bridge.
As a conqueror presses
………………………………………into a city
……………………………………………………….all shattered,
on cannon with muzzles
……………………………………….craning high as a giraffe —
so, drunk with glory,
………………………………..eager to live,
I clamber,
……………….in pride,
………………………………upon Brooklyn Bridge.
As a foolish painter
……………………………….plunges his eye,
sharp and loving,
…………………………..into a museum madonna,
so I
……..from the near skies
……………………………………….bestrewn with stars,
gaze
………at New York
…………………………..through the Brooklyn Bridge.
New York,
……………….heavy and stifling
……………………………………………..till night,
has forgotten
…………………….its hardships
…………………………………………..and height;
and only
…………….the household ghosts
ascend
………….in the lucid glow of its windows.
Here
……….the elevateds
………………………………drone softly.
And only
……………..their gentle
…………………………………droning
tell us:
………….here trains
…………………………….are crawling and rattling
like dishes
…………………being cleared into a cupboard.
While
…………a shopkeeper fetched sugar
from a mill
………………….that seemed to project
………………………………………………………..out of the water —
the masts
……………….passing under the bridge
looked
…………..no larger than pins.
I am proud
………………….of just this
……………………………………mile of steel;
upon it,
……………my visions come to life, erect —
here’s a fight
…………………….for construction
………………………………………………instead of style,
an austere disposition
…………………………………..of bolts
………………………………………………..and steel.
If
….the end of the world
…………………………………….befall —
and chaos
……………….smash our planet
…………………………………………….to bits,
and what remains
…………………………….will be
…………………………………………this
bridge, rearing above the dust of destruction;
then,
……….as huge ancient lizards
……………………………………………..are rebuilt
from bones
………………….finer than needles,
………………………………………………….to tower in museums,
so,
……from this bridge,
………………………………..a geologist of the centuries
will succeed
………………….in recreating
……………………………………….our contemporary world.
He will say:
………………….— Yonder paw
……………………………………………of steel
once joined
………………….the seas and the prairies;
from this spot,
………………………Europe
…………………………………..rushed to the West,
scattering
……………….to the wind
……………………………………Indian feathers.
This rib
……………reminds us
………………………………..of a machine —
just imagine,
…………………….would there be hands enough,
after planting
……………………..a steel foot
………………………………………….in Manhattan,
to yank
…………..Brooklyn to oneself
…………………………………………….by the lip?
By the cables
…………………….of electric strands,
I recognize
…………………the era succeeding
…………………………………………………the steam age —
here
………men
………………had ranted
…………………………………on the radio.
Here
……….men
……………….had ascended
……………………………………….in planes.
For some,
………………life
…………………….here
……………………………..had no worries;
for others,
………………..it was a prolonged
………………………………………………and hungry howl.
From this spot,
………………………jobless men
leapt
………..headlong
………………………..into the Hudson.
Now
………my canvas
…………………………is unobstructed
as it stretches on cables of string
……………………………………………………..to the feet of the stars.
I see:
……….here
………………..stood Maiakovskii,
stood,
…………composing verse, syllable by syllable.
I stare
………….as an Eskimo gapes at a train,
I seize on it
………………….as a tick fastens to an ear.
Brooklyn Bridge —
yes…
………..That’s quite a thing!

[1925]

The Brooklyn Bridge: A photo gallery

New York

For hours the train tears along the bank of the Hudson, at about two paces from the water. On the other side there are more roads, right at the foot of the Bear Mountains. Loads of boats and small craft are pushing along. More and more bridges seem to leap across the train. The carriage windows are increasingly being filled with the upright walls of maritime docks, coal depots, electrical placements, steel foundries, and pharmaceutical works. An hour before the terminus, you pass through a continuous density of chimneys, roofs, two-storey walls, and the steel girders of an elevated railway. With every step of the way, the roofs grow an extra floor. Eventually, tenements loom up, with their shaftlike walls and windows in squares, tinier squares and dots. This makes everything even more cramped, as though you were rubbing your cheek against this stone. Completely lost, you sink back onto your seat — there’s no hope, your eyes are just not used to this sort of thing; then you come to a stop — it’s Pennsylvania Station.

Americans keep quiet (or, perhaps, people only seem like that against the roar of the machinery), but over American heads megaphones and loudspeakers drone on about arrivals and departures.

Electric power is further utilized twofold and threefold by the white plates covering the windowless galleries and walkways, broken by information points, whole rows of commercial cash tills, and all kinds of shops that never close — from ice cream parlors and snack bars to crockery and furniture stores.

Vladimir Maiakovskii in New York (1925)

Vladimir Maiakovskii in New York (1925)

It is hardly conceivable that anyone could clearly imagine this whole labyrinth in its entirety. If you have come in for business at an office say two miles away downtown, in the banking or business sector of New York, on maybe the fifty-third floor of the Woolworth Building, and you have owlish proclivities — there’s no need for you even to emerge from underground. Right here, under the ground, you get into a station lift and it will whizz you up to the vestibule of the Pennsylvania Hotel, a hotel of two thousand guest-rooms of all conceivable types. Everything a visiting businessman can need: post offices, banks, telegraph offices, all sorts of goods — you’ll find everything here, without even going outside the hotel. Continue reading