Paul Jones: State Mayakovsky Museum


State Mayakovsky Museum

No one else wanted to go there. It was too far from the Sputnik Hotel. And too close to the old KGB headquarters, which had just become the new FSB headquarters. I got off at the same stop as ten men in ill-fitting suits. They had not been sober for a long time. They were somber. Given the nature of their work that was no surprise. No one had a briefcase. Not the men. Not the long legged women, getting out of dark German cars, who vanished into the grey-doored building. I wasn’t there for them. But they kept others away. I was there to see Mayakovsky. At least how he’s preserved in Moscow. Not like Lenin. Waxen and medium well-preserved in repose. But somehow in a way that keeps his words alive and dangerous. Who else would argue with Stalin? Argue in art and entombment. Celebration after death. The museum as anti-mausoleum, mysteries hidden in plain sight. No right angles. A wall of twisted chairs, each for a disappeared poet. Posters he designed for the Bolsheviks under shattered glass. Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. The place as hammered as the men entering Lubyanka. Bent steel and twisted wood. His apartment translated. Visual depiction of his mind. He who talked to the taxman about poetry went to that small corner room. And thinking of his latest lover. Or of Stalin. Of traitors. Of broken promises. Wrote this note: a love boat smashed up on the dreary routine. Shot in the only place that can kill a poet. In hours like these, one rises to address the heart, the ages, history, and all creation.

Paul Jones


Review by Tiel Aisha Ansari
The “new FSB headquarters” places this poem in the late ’90s, a time of rapid change in the former USSR. Yet Jones depicts a colorless culture-scape focused on the past. Preservation is the theme; even the men in ill-fitting suits have been at their jobs “for a long time.” Is it the nature of a museum as a time capsule, or a retroactive comment on the history of twenty-first century Russia? “the ages, history and all creation” share the end of the poem with “dreary routine” and “broken promises.”

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