558: City That Does Not Sleep
558: City That Does Not Sleep
I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
I’ve spoken before about the surreal quality of everyday life. The haunted parts, the bright technicolor glow of elation. Maybe it’s that surrendering to the weirdness of life that makes me feel connected to the surrealists and their dream-like images? Everything is strange. They’re just pointing it out.
In today’s poem, by one of my poetic fathers, Federico García Lorca, we watch as the speaker looks out over New York City, sees the chaos fueled by capitalism, and begs us all to pay attention.
City That Does Not Sleep
by Federico García Lorca
Translated by Robert Bly
In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins. The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream, and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars. Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. In a graveyard far off there is a corpse who has moaned for three years because of a dry countryside on his knee; and that boy they buried this morning cried so much it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet. Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful! We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias. But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist; flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths in a thicket of new veins, and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders. One day the horses will live in the saloons and the enraged ants will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows. Another day we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue. Careful! Be careful! Be careful! The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm, and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge, or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe, we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting, where the bear's teeth are waiting, where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting, and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder. Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is sleeping. If someone does close his eyes, a whip, boys, a whip! Let there be a landscape of open eyes and bitter wounds on fire. No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one. I have said it before. No one is sleeping. But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night, open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
"City That Does Not Sleep" by Federico García Lorca, translated by Robert Bly from LORCA & JIMENEZ: SELECTED POEMS © 1997 by Robert Bly, © 1967 by Sixties Press. Used by permission of Beacon Press.