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

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

          the passports

     of Danes

and all other kinds

     of Scandi.

And suddenly,

              as if he’s been burnt,

the fellow’s mouth contorts.

The functionary

 takes hold of

             my enormous,

          red-skinned

passport.

He holds it

        as though

             it were a bomb

or a double-bladed razor

or a porcupine;

he holds it

      as though

           it were a six-foot-long

rattlesnake

        with 20 fangs.

The porter

       winks

    meaningfully:

he’ll carry

                       my luggage

            free of charge.

The gendarme

              looks at the detective

         questioningly;

the detective

           looks back

 at the gendarme.

Oh,

          what joy

           it would give

     the gendarme class

to flog

               and crucify me

                 on the spot

for having

      in my hand

             such a hammer-nosed,

sickle-cheeked

               Soviet

            passport.

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…

I draw it out

          from my wide trousers,

a

    priceless

      burden.

Read it and weep,

    you suckers: I’m a citizen of the Soviet Union.

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