Talking to Vladimir Mayakovsky

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.

Ron Padgett, "Talking to Vladimir Mayakovsky" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2013 by Ron Padgett.  Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.
Source: Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013)
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