Mayakovsky, ‘Lines on the Soviet Passport’ (1929)

James Womack

I would

tear through


like a wolf.

For credentials

I have no respect.

I’d send paperwork

straight to hell,

along with

the horse it rode in on.

But this document…

The polite functionary


along the frontier

of cabins

and compartments.




and I give

my little purple booklet.

Some passports

make him

show his teeth.


he almost disdains.

And with respect he takes e.g.

the double-dormant

English lions.

With his eyes

he eats

the good ol’ boy up,

and bends

in a ceaseless obeisance,

and takes,

as though

accepting a tip,

a passport that’s an American’s.

Looks at a Polish pass

like a goat at an advert.

His eyes


as he looks at the Pole’s passport,

in dull



where’s this guy from,

and what

are these geographical fantasies?

Without turning

his cabbage-like bonce,


no feelings

in any way,

he unblinkingly takes

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