—There is only a thin dusting of devils in the city… and we rarely meet,
Says Mayakovsky, the august and effulgent poet,
Long after his doom.
—There is only a thin dusting of devils in the city, and we do not often meet.
He wonders about the detonating power of this string of words that had formed itself in its head, which he has already begun carving,
Discharge it to the air he also already has, the worst you can do when words cohere.
Doing this with random words was bad enough, they have hospitals for that,
But prisons for nearly all combinations of the ordered kind.
The interjection has a tone of surprise. It comes from a woman near him who has been watching the Neptune in the middle of the pond,
Shipwrecked, because he goes nowhere.
Poseidon could traverse the Aegean in four steps if he were in a hurry, Mayakovsky is mystified as to why this one is so stuck.
—Made of stone, supplies the woman.
—Oh… The vast majority, yes, he tells her. If you stop to think about, very few coherent combinations are freely permitted.
Immediately, she’s back at him.
—You will need to define more sharply your use of the word ‘devil’.
She’s not happy. He sighs.
—A devil is a halibut burrowing conscientiously along a telegraph line,
A devil is a terrapin hiding as a cushion on a chaise—
—No, do it properly!
She is sharp, and is escalating towards quite angry with him. All because he has this lasting propensity never to do it properly. Already, she has traced ‘paltry’ in the soil with one of her bruised high heels.
How to round off his apophthegm effectively…
He made his eyes dart left right left, as a sign of consternation. As if he were giving up massively, too much for him,
If he fails now, that means failure great — he could lose his grip on her — she is a harsh task-mistress, why he chose her, he doesn’t know — now —
He would be wasted, his posthumous work, his altruistic efforts,
And his walking towards the white ethereally glowing light (which he had done very quickly) wasted in the sense of could have been later, lesser, more low-key.
Difficult, and yet he could have realised that.
And then he has it, a quick tongue to talk his way out of a tight spot. He clears his throat, producing a sound like a cement mixer with tea and gravel brewing in it.
—A devil: one who is not filled entirely by first lesson.