City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in Five Cantos

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

Manuel Maples Arce
Mexican
1900 – 1981

 

I

To the workers of Mexico

Here’s my brutal
and multispirited
poem
to the new city.

O city all tense
with cables and with efforts,
all resounding
with motors and with wings.

Simultaneous explosion
of new theories,
a bit further
On the spatial plane
from Whitman and from Turner
and a bit closer
to Maples Arce.

The lungs of Russia
blow the wind
of social revolution toward us.
Literary zipper-robbers
will understand nothing
of this new sweaty
beauty of the century,
and the ripe
moons
that fell,
are this putrefaction
that reaches us
from intellectual sewage pipes.
Here’s my poem:
O city strong
and manifold,
made all of iron and of steel!

Docks. Inner harbors.
Cranes.
And the sexual fever
of industrial plants.
Metropolis:
Bodyguards of trams
that traverse the subversivist streets.
Window displays accost sidewalks,
and the sun, it sacks the avenues.
On the fringes of the tariffed
days of telephone posts
momentary landscapes file
through systems of elevator tubes.

Suddenly,
O the green
flash of her eyes!

Beneath the ingenuous shutters of the hour
pass red battalions.
The cannibal romanticism of Yankee music
has gone making its nests in the masts.
O international city!
Toward what remote meridian
cut that ocean liner?
I feel that everything moves away.

Aged dusks
float among the masonry of the scene.
Spectral trains that travel
toward far
away, panting with civilizations.

The upset multitude
sloshes musically in the streets.

And now, the bourgeois thieves, they will lie down to tremble
for the fortunes
that robbed the town,
but someone concealed beneath their dreams
the spiritual music staff of the explosive.

Here’s my poem:
Pennants of hurrahs into the wind,
inflamed heads of hair
and captive mornings in eyes.

O musical
city
all made of mechanical rhythms!

Tomorrow, perhaps,
only the vivid light of my verses
will illuminate the humiliated horizons.

II

This new profoundness of the scene
is a projection toward interior mirages.

The resounding crowd
today overruns the communal plazas
and the triumphal hurrahs
of obregonismo
reverberate from the façades to the sun.

O romantic girl
flare-up of gold!

Maybe between my hands
only living moments remained.
Landscapes dressed in yellow
fell asleep behind the windowpanes,
and the city, rapt,
has remained trembling in the rigging.
Applauses are that barrier.

—Oh God!
—Never fear, it’s the romantic wave of the multitudes.
Afterward, over the overflows of silence,
the Tarahumara night will go expanding.
Extinguish your shop windows.
Within the machinery of insomnia,
lust, are millions of eyes
that smear themselves on flesh.

A steel bird
has emprowed its aim toward a star
The port:
inflamed distances,
smoke of industrial plants.
Over clotheslines of music
her remembrance suns itself.
A transatlantic farewell leapt from the gunwale.

Motors sing
over the dead panorama.

III

The afternoon, riddled with windows,
floats on the wires of the telephone,
and between the
inverse crossings of the hour
the farewells of the machines hang. One morning his

wonderful youth
exploded
between my fingers,
and in the empty water
of the mirrors,
the forgotten faces were shipwrecked.

Oh the poor trade union city
scattered
with cheers and screams!

The workers
are red
and yellows.

There is a flourishing of pistols
after the springboard of the speeches,
and while the lungs
of the wind
are suppurated,
lost in the dark corridors of the music
some white bride leaves off.

IV

Among copses of silence
darkness licks the blood of dusk.
Fallen stars,
they are dead birds
in the dreamless water
of the mirror.

And the resounding
artilleries of the Atlantic
waned,
finally,
in the distance.

Over the rigging of autumn,
a nocturnal wind blows:
it is the wind of Russia,
of the great tragedies,
and the garden,
yellow,
founders in shadow.
Her recollection, sudden,
it crackles in muted interiors.

Her golden words
sift in my memory.

Rivers of blue shirts
overflow the floodgates of industrial plants,
and agitator trees
gesticulate their discourses on the sidewalk.
The strikers fling
insults and blows with stones,
and life, it is a tumultuous
conversion to the left.

On the edges of the pillow,
night, it is a precipice;
and insomnia,
it has remained rummaging in my brain.

From whom are those voices
that float in shadow?

And these trains that howl
to devastated horizons.

The soldiers
will spend this night in the inferno.

My God!
And from all this disaster
only a few white
pieces
of her recollection,
they have kept me within her hands.

V

The savage hordes of the night
lie down over the frightened city.

The bay,
flowering
with masts and moons,
spills
over the ingenuous
music score of her hands,
and the distant scream
of a steamboat,
toward the Nordic seas.

Goodbye
to the shipwrecked continent!

Between the wires of her name
remain feathers of birds.

Poor Celia Maria Dolores;
the scene is inside us.
Beneath hatchet blows of silence
iron architectures are devastated.
There are waves of blood and storm clouds of hatred.

Desolation.

The marijuana discourses
of legislators
splattered her remembrance with droppings,
but,
her tenderness has fallen headlong
on the multitudes of my soul.

Ocotlán
there, far away.
Voices.

Impacts peck about
trenches.

All night lust stoned
balconies under cover of a virginity.

Shrapnel
makes pieces of silence sound.

Resounding
and deserted streets,
they are rivers of shadow
that go into the sea,
and the sky, frayed,
is the new
flag
that flutters
over the city.

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