POEMS BY VELIMIR KHLEBNIKOV
(1885-1922)

From Snake Train (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1976)
translated by Gary Kern


We don't live in castles,
Us no one caresses,
Us, the workingmen.
Grew up like whelps we did.
"Knife's mine!"
"Take it, swine!"
Nice knife.
Hey, human hordes!
Knife's nice!
Know it, you,
In your brain
Make a notch.
But me, a sweet young girl,
But me, a blackhaired girl,
Give love.
He, the pretty thing, long knife,
In the master's heart is right!
With a knife I regale you -
I, a simple girl:
Washerwoman-worker!
Aee it's nice, it's nice!
Knife.

*****

Writers of the knife are we!
Thinkers of the paunch are we!
Scientists of black bread,
Of sweatiness and sootiness,
Priests of ho-ho-ho.
We are tradeswomen of heavenly black eyes,
Profligates of gold in autumnal leaves,
Hoarders of yellow coins in the trees,
Violinists of the toothache are we,
We are in love with rheumatic cramp,
We are in love with the common cold,
Tradesmen of laughter,
Choirmasters of hunger,
Gluttons of yesteryear,
Drunkards of yesterday,
Lovers of the rainspout,
Savants of the crust of bread,
Artists of sootiness,
Accountants of jackdaws, crows,
Nabobs of the twilight glow -
All of us are tsars today!
Lovers of the belly,
Prophets of the dirty drawers,
Excavators of yesterday's dinners,
God's children are we.

From Prachka [Washerwoman], Nov. 1921

*****

I praise
Perun who pelts down pikes,
Plunging like a pike himself
From a point of emptiness,
Like a pike of emptiness,
He flares up with a blast of bullets,
Exploding in a blaze of powder,
Pounding particles of praise.

*****

Primal and primal and primal Perun.
Primitive Perun. Perun of the pits.
Primal by praising in primal pits.
Plunge like a primitive pike
Past the puberulent period of powder,
Plumed like the rapids of prancing spray.
Pounding your club of praise,
Puff in the powdery blaze.

*****

Primeval boy,
Born in the period of pits,
Become the truth of their praise,
Playing the sail of their songs,
Biting the flame from the pike,
Predator mouth of emptiness,
Preying on flame,
Peerless boy,
Blazing Perun.

From Perun, 1917
[Perun was the ancient Slavic god of wind and thunder.]

*****

I went, a youth, alone
Into the depth of night,
Grown over with stiff hairs
From head down to the ground.
The night stood all around,
And there was solitude.
If only there were friends,
If only there were self.
I set fire to my hairs
And threw off scraps of rings,
Set fire to fields, to trees -
And it became more merry.
Khlebnikov field was aflame.
My fiery I blazed in the dark.
And now I go away,
My hairs have all burned up.
Instead of I
There now stood - We!
Go, stern Varangian!
Uphold the law and honor.

[The Varangians were the Norsemen believed to have founded Russia.]

[Back] | [Home]