I, a butterfly that has flown
into the room of human life,
must leave the handwriting of my dust
like a prisoner’s signature
over the stern windows,
across fate’s strict panes.
The wallpaper of human life
is grey and sad.
And there is the windows’
I have worn away my deep-blue morning glow,
my patterns of dots,
my wing’s light-blue storm, first freshness.
The powder’s gone, the wings have faded
and turned transparent and hard.
Jaded, I beat
against the window of mankind.
From the other side knock eternal numbers,
summoning me to the motherland,
asking one single number
to return to all numbers.
by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)
a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников (Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)
translated by Robert Chandler
Fun fact: Khlebnikov possibly reflecting on Zhuangzi’s famous quote:
- Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
- As translated by Lin Yutang