translated from the Russian by Andrey Kneller Prologue Your thought, Fantasizing on a sodden brain, Like a bloated lackey on a greasy couch sprawling, -- With my heart’s bloody tatters, I’ll mock it again. Until I’m contempt, I’ll be ruthless and galling. There’s no grandfatherly fondness in me, There are no gray hairs in my soul! Shaking the world with my voice and grinning, I pass you by, -- handsome, Twentytwoyearold. Gentle souls! You play your love on the violin. The crude ones play it on the drums violently. But can you turn yourselves inside out, like me And become just two lips entirely? Come and learn-- You, decorous bureaucrats of angelic leagues! Step out of those cambric drawing-rooms And you, who can leaf your lips Like a cook turns the pages of her recipe books. If you wish-- I’ll rage on raw meat like a vandal Or change into hues that the sunrise arouses, If you wish-- I can be irreproachably gentle, Not a man -- but a cloud in trousers. I refuse to believe in Nice1 blossoming! I will glorify you regardless, -- Men, crumpled like bed-sheets in hospitals, And women, battered like overused proverbs.