asher63 (asher63) wrote,

I Speak of the City

News of today and a ruin tomorrow, entombed and revived every day,
lived with in alleys, plazas, buses and taxis, moviehouses, theaters and bars, in hotels, dovecotes and catacombs,
the great city that fits in a ten-foot room, boundless as a galaxy,
the city that dreams us all, that we all make and unmake and remake while we dream,
the city that we all dream, which endlessly changes while we dream it,
the city that wakes every hundred years and looks at itself in the mirror of a word and does not recognize itself and goes back to sleep,

the city that springs from the eyelids of the woman sleeping beside me, and changes,
with its monuments and statues, its histories and legends,
into a wellspring of a thousand eyes, each eye reflecting the same suspended landscape,
before the schools and prisons, the alphabets and numbers, the altar and the law,
the river that is four rivers, the orchard, the tree, the Woman and the Man clothed in wind,
- to return, return, to be clay again, to bathe in that light, to sleep under those votive candles,
to float on the waters of time like the flaming maple leaf the current carries,
return ...

I speak of towers, bridges, subways, hangars - wonderful and catastrophic,
the abstract State and its concrete police, its teachers, wardens, and preachers,
the shops where they have it all, and we spend it all, and it all turns back to dust ...

I speak of the endless march of prostitution through streets as wide as desire and weariness,
the coming and going of cars, mirrors of our worries, work, and passion (why, wherefore, where to?),
of the hospitals, always full, where we always die alone,

I speak of the shade of certain churches and the flickering flames of the candles on the altars,
timid tongues with which the forsaken speak to saints and virgins in a passionate, halting language,
I speak of the dinner under a one-eyed lamp on chipped plates at a lame table,
I speak of the innocent tribes that camp in the desolate places with their women and children, their animals and ghosts ...

I speak of dawns like the flight of herons on a lake, clear-winged sun that perches in the stone foliage of the church, and the chirping of light on the glass stalks of the palaces,
I speak of certain afternoons in early fall, waterfalls of incorporeal gold, everything loses its body, everything is held still,
the light thinks, and each one of us feels himself thought by that returning light, and for a long moment time dissolves, and we are air again,

I speak of summer and of the arrested night that grows on the horizon like a mountain of smoke and bit by bit crumbles and falls on us like a wave,
reconciled elements, the night has spread out and its body is a powerful river just gone to sleep, we rock in the waves of its breathing, the hour is tangible, we can touch it like a fruit,
they have lit the lights and the avenues burn with the blaze of desire, in the parks the electric light pierces through the leaves and falls on us in a green and phosphorescent mist that lights us without dampness, the trees murmur, they're telling us something,
there are streets in the shadows that are a smiling insinuation, we don't know where they go, maybe to the ferry to the lost islands ...

I speak of the long-awaited encounter with that unexpected form, in which the unknown is made flesh, and revealed to each of us:
eyes that are the half-open night and the waking day, the sea that spreads out and the speaking flame, bold breasts, lunar tide,
lips that say sesame and time opens up and the little room becomes a garden of transformation and air and fire bond, earth and water mingle,

or it is the arrival of the moment in which over there, on another side that is yet here, the gate is locked and time stops flowing:
the moment of thus far, the end of the gasping and the moaning and the anguish, and the soul loses its body and plunges though a gap in the floor, it falls into itself and time has run aground, we are walking down an endless corridor, panting in the sand,

is that music coming closer or receding? are those pale lights being lit or going out? space sings, time blows away: it is the gasp, it is the look that slips through the bare wall, it is the wall that stays silent, the wall,

I speak of our public history and our secret history, yours and mine,
I speak of the forest of stone, the prophet's desert, the anthill of souls, the assembly of tribes, the house of mirrors, the labyrinth of echos,
I speak of the great rumble that comes from the bottom of time, the incoherent mumble of nations uniting or breaking up, the rolling of multitudes and their weapons like tumbling boulders, the dull sound of bones falling into the pit of history,

I speak of the city, shepherdess of centuries, mother that begets us and consumes us, creates us and forgets us.

- Octavio Paz
tr. by Asher Abrams (excerpted)
Tags: poetry

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