All right, I admit it:
It was just a dream I had last night.
I was trudging along a muddy path
in a column of downcast men
on the blackened outskirts of New York,
the twilight dingy and ruined,
the future without hope
as we marched along
in our soiled, proletarian rags.
To my left was Mayakovsky, head shaved,
and next to him his friend
with gray beard and dark cap.
"You've got to admit," Mayakovsky
was saying, "that this is a pretty good
way to write a poem."
"Yes," I said, "the momentum
is sustained by our walking forward,
the desolate landscape seeps into every word,
and you're free to say anything you want."
"That's because we're inside the poem,"
he said, "not outside." Puddles
of oily water gleamed dully beneath the low clouds.
"That's why my poems were so big:
there's more room inside."
The hard line of his jaw flexed and
the men dispersed. I followed
his friend behind a wall
to hear the poem go on
in the lecture the friend was giving on history,
but no, the real poem had finished.
I went back to the spot
where the poem had finished.
Vladimir had left the poem.