Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Into the Matter

By Octavio Paz

Roar of engines
                            swollen river
whiplashing whistles
                                      squeal of breaks
              Flailing neon
knife wounds of electric light
Multicolored night
                                  decked with signs
blinking letters
the leering wink of numbers
Night of countless tits
and a single bloody mouth
cats in heat monkeys panicked
Night in the bones
                                  skeleton night
the headlights touch your secret plazas
the sanctuary of the body
                                              the ark of the spirit
the lips of the wound
the wooded cleft of the oracles

        heap of stones
in the sack of winter
Night grows
                      the tide grows
grim towers with fear at their throats
houses temples domes
                                        petrified time
great masses of dream and pride
winter brands them with its cruel irons
stones chewed to the bone
by the century and its acids
                                                  the nameless evil
the evil with all the names
          in the marrow of iron
in the blind joints of stone

        a clock strikes
between your thighs
                                    too late
too soon
                Ages of smoke
battle in your skull
                                  in your bed
the doomed centuries make love in sorrow
City of indestructible façade
crumbling memory
your demented speech
                                        woven with reason
runs through my veins
your syllable ringing in my ears
your interminable phrase

As though suffering from loss of blood
the moon
rises over the rooftops
The moon
like a drunkard falls on its face
Stray dogs
pick the moon's bone clean
A convoy of trucks
runs over the bodies of the moon
A cat crosses the bridge of the moon
The butchers wash their hands
in the water of the moon
The city stretches out in its alleys
goes to sleep in the empty lots
the city has become lost in its outskirts

A clock strikes the time
                                          now it's time
it's not time now
                              now it's now
now it's time to get rid of time
now it's not time
                              it's time and not now
time eats the now

Now it's time
                        windows close
walls close doors close
the words go home
now we are more alone
The mind and its octopus scribes
sit down at my table
the court condemns what I write
the court condemns what I keep silent
Footsteps of time that appears and says
what does it say?
what are you saying? my thoughts say
you don't know what you're saying
traps of reason
crimes of language
you must erase what you write
write what you erase
the front and back of arthritic Spanish

Today one could say all the words
a skyscraper of bristling words
an enormous meaningless city
a grandiose incoherent monument
a miniature babbling Babel
others built you
the masters
the venerable immortals
seated on their rickety thrones
others made you the language of man
crumbling words

Go back to the names
                                      the axis
the broad backs of this world
the shoulders effortlessly bearing time
            the glass frozen glance
the wall no one's mask
the books with blank expressions
swollen with warring reasons
the servile table set on all fours
the door the condemned door
              scuttled truths

Time is weightless
                                  and heavy-hearted
Things are not in their places
they have no places
                                  They are motionless
and moving
                      they spread wings
spread roots
                      claws and teeth
they have eyes and nails and nails and nails
They are real they are ghosts they are bodies
they're here
                      and can't be touched

The names are not names
they don't say what they say
I must say what they don't say
I must say what they say
stone blood sperm
rage city clock
panic laughter panic
I must say what they don't say
the promiscuity of the name
the nameless evil
the name of the evils
I must say what they say
the sanctuary of the body
                                              the ark of the spirit

From 'Collected Poems: 1957-1987'
Translated by Eliot Weinberger

Read about Octavio Paz

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