The Loneliness of Cities

Jorge Carrera Andrade

translated from the Spanish by

Steven Ford Brown

Without knowing my number,
I am enclosed by walls and boundaries
with an enslaved moon
and perpetual shadow chained to my ankle.

Living frontiers arise
a step beyond my footsteps.

There is neither north nor south, east nor west,
only a multiplied loneliness exists,
a loneliness divided by a cipher of men.
Time's race around the circle of the clock,
luminous navels of streetcars,
bells with athletic shoulders,
walls that spell out two or three colored words,
are the materials of loneliness.

Image of solitude:
bricklayer singing on a scaffold
a fixed raft in the sky.
Images of solitude:
a traveler submerged in a newspaper,
a waiter hiding a photograph in his vest pocket.

The city has a mineral appearance.
Urban geometry is less beautiful
than the geometry we learned at school.
A triangle, an egg, a cube of sugar
initiated us into a celebration of forms.
Circumferences only came later:
the first woman, the first moon.
'Where were you, loneliness,
that I never knew you before I turned twenty?
On trains, in mirrors, in photographs,
you are always at my side now.

Country people are less alone
because they are one with the land.
Trees are their sons,
they see changes of weather in their own flesh,
and the lives of saintly little animals serve as their example.

This loneliness is nourished by books,
solitary walks, pianos, and fragments of crowds,
by cities and skies conquered by machines,
by sheets of foam
unfolding toward boundaries of the sea.
Everything has been invented,
but nothing has been invented to deliver us from loneliness.

Playing cards guard the secret of garrets.
Sobs are formed to be smoked away in a pipe.
Loneliness has agreed to be interred in a guitar.
It's known that loneliness walks through vacant apartments,
has commerce with the clothing of suicides,
and confuses messages in the telegraph wires.

Copyright ©1998 Steven Ford Brown. All rights reserved.

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