this just made me fall in love with beijing all over again.
by OCTAVIO PAZ
news today and tomorrow a ruin, buried and resurrected every day,
lived together in streets, plazas, buses, taxis, movie houses, theaters, bars, hotels, pigeon coops and catacombs,
The enormous city that fits in a room three yards square, and endless as a galaxy, the city that dreams us all, that all of us build and unbuild and rebuild as we dream, the city that we all dream, that restlessly changes while we dream it,
the city that wakes every one hundred years and looks at itself in the mirror of a word that it doesn’t recognize and goes back to sleep, the city that sprouts from the eyelids of the woman who sleeps at my side and is transformed,
with its monuments and statues, its histories and legends, into a fountain made of countless eyes, and each eye reflects the same landscape, frozen in time, before schools and prisons, alphabets and numbers, the altar and the law: the river that is four rivers, the orchard, the tree, the female, and male dressed in wind — to go back, to be clay again, to bathe in that light, to sleep under those votive lights, to float on the waters of time like the flaming maple leaf, the current drags along, to go back — are we asleep or awake?
we are, we are nothing more, day breaks, it’s early, we are in the city, we cannot leave except to fall into another city, different yet identical,
I speak of the immense city, that daily reality composed of two words: the others, and in every city there is an I clipped from a we, an I adrift,
I speak of the city built by the dead, inhabited by their stern ghosts, ruled by their despotic memory, the city I talk to when I talk to nobody, the city that dictates these insomniac words,
I speak of towers, bridges, tunnels, hangars, wonders and disasters, the abstract state and its concrete police, the schoolteachers, jailers, preachers, the shops that have everything, where we spend everything, and it all turns to smoke, the markets with their pyramids of fruit, the turns of the seasons, the sides of beef hanging from the hooks, the hill of spices, and the towers of bottles and preserves, all of the flavors and colors, all the smells and all the stuff, the tide of voices — water, metal, wood, clay — the bustle, the haggling, and contriving as old as time,
I speak of the buildings of stone and marble, of cement, glass and steel, of the people in the lobbies and doorways, of the elevators that rise and fall like the mercury in thermometers, of the banks and their boards of directors, of factories and their managers, of the workers and incestuous machines,
I speak of the timeless parade of prostitution, through streets as long as desire and boredom, of the coming and going of cars, mirrors of our anxieties, business, passions, (why? Toward what? For what?),
of the hospitals that are always full(and where always die alone,)
I speak of the half-light of certain churches, and the flickering of candles at the altars, the timid voices with which the desolate talk to saints and virgins in a passionate, failing language,
I speak of dinner under a squinting light, at a limping table with chipped plates, of the innocent tribes that camp in the empty lots with their woman and children, their animals, and their ghosts Of the rats in the sewers and of the brave sparrows that nest in the wires, in the cornices and the martyred trees, of the contemplative cats and their libertine novels in the light of the moon, cruel goddess of the rooftops, of the stray dogs that are our Franciscans and bhikkus, the dogs that scratch up the bones of the sun,
I speak of the anchorites and the libertarian brotherhood, of secret plots of law enforcers and bands of thieves
Of the conspiracies of levelers and the Society of Friends of Crime of the Suicide Club, and of Jack the Ripper, of the Friend of the People, the sharpener of the guillotine, of Caesar, Delight of Humankind,
I speak of the paralytic slum, the cracked wall, the dry fountain, the grafittied statue,
I speak of garbage heaps the size of mountain, and of melancholy sunlight filtered by the smog, of broken glass, and the desert of scrap iron, of last night’s crime, and of the banquet of the immortal Trimalchio, of the moon in the television antennas, and a butterfly on a filthy jar,
I speak of dawns like a flight of herons on the lake, and the sun of transparent winds that land on the rock foliage of the churches, and the twittering of light on the glass stalks of the palaces,
I speak of certain afternoons in early fall, waterfalls of immaterial gold, the transformation of this world, when everything loses its body, everything is held in suspense, and the light thinks, and each one of us feels himself thought by that reflective light, and for one long moment, time dissolves, we are air once more,
I speak of the summer, of the slow night that grows on the horizon like a mountain of smoke, and bit by bit it crumbles, falling over us like a wave, the elements are reconciled, night has stretched out, and its body is a powerful river of sudden sleep, we rock in the waves of its breathing, the hour is tangible we can touch it like a fruit, the have lit the lights, and avenues burn with the brilliancy of desire, in the parks electric light brakes through the branches and falls over us like a green and phosphorant mist that illuminates but does not wet us, the trees murmur, they tell us something, there are streets in the half-light that are a smiling insinuation, we don’t know where they lead, perhaps to the ferry for the lost islands,
I speak of the stars over the high terraces and the indecipherable sentences they write on the stone of the sky,
I speak of the sudden downpour that lashes the windowpanes and bends the tress, that lasted twenty-five minutes and now, up above, there are blue slits and streams of light, steam rises from the asphalt, the cars glisten, there are puddles where ships of reflection sail, I speak of nomadic clouds, and of a thin music that lights a room on the fifth floor, and a murmur of laughter in the middle of the night like water that flows far-off through roots and grasses,
I speak of the longed-for encounter with that unexpected form with which the unknown is made flesh, and revealed to each of us: eyes that are the night half open and the day that wakes, the sea stretching and the flame that speaks, powerful breasts: lunar tide, lips that say “sesame”, and time opens, and the little room becomes a garden of change, air and fire entwine, earth and water mingle, or the arrival of that moment there, on the other side that is really here, where the key locks and time ceases to flow: the moment until now, the last of the gasps, the meaning, the anguish, the soul loses its body and crashes through hole in the floor, falling in itself, and time has run aground, and we walk through an endless corridor, panting in the sand, is that music coming closer or receding, are those pale lights just lit or going out?
Space is singing, time has vanished: it is the gasp, it is the glance that slips through the blank wall, it is the wall that stays silent, the wall, I speak of public history, or our secret history, yours and mine,
I speak of the forest of stone, the desert of prophets, the ant-heap of souls, the congregation of tribes, the house of mirrors, the labyrinth of echoes,
I speak of the great murmur that comes from the depths of time, the incoherent whisper, of nations uniting or splitting part, the wheeling of multitudes, and their weapons like boulders hurling down, the dull sound of bones falling into the pit of history,
I speak of the city, shepherd of the centuries, mother that gives birth to us and devours us, that creates us and forgets.