From My Commonplace Book - 70

After Mayakovsky

by Denis Johnson

It’s after one. You’re probably alone.
All night the moon rings like a telephone
in an empty booth above our separateness.
Now is the hour one answers. I am home.
Hello, my heart, my God, my President,
my darling: I’m alarmed by the alarm
clock’s iridescent face, hung like a charm
from darkness’s fat ear. This accident
that was my life will have its witnesses:
now, while the world lies wholly motionless
and sorry in a crapulence of stars,
now is the hour one rises to address
the ages and history and the universe;
I swear you’ll never see my face again.

Denis Johnson (American, born 1949) has written, besides poetry, novels, plays, short stories and non-fiction. He is perhaps best known for his collection of interconnected stories, Jesus' Son, which was made into a film. "After Mayakovsky" is from his poetry collection, The Veil, but I discovered it in the anthology It's Not You, It's Me: The Poetry of Breakup, edited by Jerry Williams.

Vladimir Mayakovsky (Russian, 1893-1930) was a poet and playwright as well as a political activist and propagandist in the Bolshevik Revolution and early Soviet Union. Like many artists and intellectuals, he grew disillusioned with the Soviet Union under Stalin; he committed suicide. (See comments below for the poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky that inspired the one by Denis Johnson.)


What a beautiful poem Merry- and i didnt guess that the poem was from that era at all, it sounds so modern. I studied and wrote poetry last year as part of my degree, and poetry analysis is coming back around soon in the course. Strangely i havel also just done a module on Stalin.

The poem has a melancholy feel that suits my mood at the moment.
Hi, Justy. Denis Johnson's collecton The Veil was published in 1987, so I'm guessing that the poem was written within the decade before. I'm not familiar with Vladamir Mayakovsky's writing and don't know how Denis Johnson's poem recalls that work. I looked for that information online, and although "After Mayakovsky" is posted on a number of websites and blogs, I couldn't find any discussion of it. Although, as I said, I first saw the poem in an anthology of breakup poems, I think that in light of what happened to Vladimir Mayakovsky, it's possible to read it as a political poem, his suicide note to Stalin. I believe he did leave a short poem as his suicide note. I'll see if I can find it.
How far along are you in your degree? Is this an English you are working on? Do you take courses online?
Ah ha! I found the poem by Vladimire Mayakovsky that inspired Denis Johnson's poem:

Past one o’clock. You're probably in bed.
The Milky Way is like Oka of silver
No need for me to rush. I have no reasons left
to stir you with the lightnings of my cable fever.
And so they say, the incident dissolved.*
The Love Boat smashed up on the dreary routine.
We’re even. There’s no use in keeping the score
of mutual hurts, affliction and spleen.
Look here, the world exudes an eerie calm.
The night demands tribute in constellations.
In hours like these I’d like to be the one
with ages, history and the creation.
Mayakovsky's suicide note from April 12, 1930 read in part:
And so they say,
"the incident dissolved"
the love boat smashed up
on the dreary routine.
I'm through with live
and [we] should absolve
from mutual hurts, affliction and spleen. .
It was written two days before he shot himself on April 14th, 1930.
Just caught up Merry. Oh dear rotten to the core so much but so often little one can do. Yet the sun rises, the birds sing and the flowers carry on regardless - I think I'll do the same on my wobbly walks. !.
So sad Merry...
My degree is English lterature with creative writing. I study all online - there are face to face tutorials but i dont attend those as they are too far away and a bit too long for me. The Open university is very well respected in the UK and thier degrees are equivalent to any other university. I am very lucky that i get my course fees and a small grant paid.

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