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

James Womack

I would

tear through

bureaucracy

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

moves

along the frontier

of cabins

and compartments.

People

proffer

passports

and I give

my little purple booklet.

Some passports

make him

show his teeth.

Others

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

bulge

as he looks at the Pole’s passport,

in dull

elephantine

police-ishness,

where’s this guy from,

and what

are these geographical fantasies?

Without turning

his cabbage-like bonce,

showing

no feelings

in any way,

he unblinkingly takes

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