Lorca’s Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)

“Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)”
[1940]
by Federico García Lorca, Greg Simon and Steven F. White, trans., 1998
from Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn

Out in the sky, no one sleeps. No one, no one.
No one sleeps.
Lunar creatures sniff and circle the dwellings.
Live iguanas will come to bite the men who don’t dream,
and the brokenhearted fugitive will meet on street corners
an incredible crocodile resting beneath the tender protest of the
stars.

Out in the world, no one sleeps. No one, no one.
No one sleeps.
There is a corpse in the farthest graveyard
complaining for three years
because of an arid landscape in his knee;
and a boy who was buried this morning cried so much
they had to call the dogs to quiet him.

Life is no dream. Watch out! Watch out! Watch out!
We fall down stairs and eat the moist earth,
or we climb to the snow’s edge with the choir of dead dahlias.
But there is no oblivion, no dream:
raw flesh. Kisses tie mouths
in a tangle of new veins
and those who are hurt will hurt without rest
and those who are frightened by death will carry it on their
shoulders.

One day
horses will live in the taverns
and furious ants
will attack the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cattle.
Another day
we’ll witness the resurrection of dead butterflies,
and still walking in a landscape of gray sponges and silent ships,
we’ll see our ring shine and rose spill from our tongues.

Watch out! Watch out! Watch out!
Those still marked by claws and cloudburst,
that boy who cries because he doesn’t know about the invention
of bridges,
or that corpse that has nothing more than its head and one
shoe—
they all must be led to the wall where iguanas and serpents wait,
where the bear’s teeth wait,
where the mummified hand of a child waits
and the camel’s fur bristles with a violent blue chill.
Out in the sky, no one sleeps. No one, no one.
No one sleeps.
But if someone closes his eyes,
whip him, my children, whip him!
Let there be a panorama of open eyes
and bitter inflamed wounds.

Out in the world, no one sleeps. No one. No one.
I’ve said it before.
No one sleeps.
But at night, if someone has too much moss on his temples,
open the trap doors so he can see in moonlight
the fake goblets, the venom, and the skull of the theaters.

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