I am not at the crest of the world.
                                                      The moment 
is not the stylite’s pillar,
doesn’t rise from my feet,
                                              doesn’t burst
in my skull in a silent black explosion,
illumination the same as blindness.
I am on the sixth floor,
                                          I am
in a cage hung from time.

Sixth floor:
                     clatter and surf,
battle of metals,
engines with a rage now human.
                                                           The night
is a disjointed murmur,
                                            a body
self-embraced, tearing itself apart.
fumbling to bind its pieces,
                                                  it gathers
its broken names and scatters them.
With lopped fingers
the city touches itself in dreams.

I am not at the crossroads:
                                                      to choose
is to go wrong.
                           I am
in the middle of this phrase.
                                                    Where will it take me?
Rumbling tumble,
                                 data and date,
my birthfall:
                       calendar dismembered
in the hollows of my memory.
I am the sack of my shadows.

to the slack breasts of my mother.
Wrinkled hills,
                            swabbed lava,
sobbing fields,
                           saltpeter meals.
Two workmen open the pit.
mouth of cement and brick.
The wracked box appears:
                                                through the loose planks
the pearl-grey hat,
                                  the pair of shoes,
the black suit of a lawyer.
                                               Bones, buttons, rags:
sudden heap of dust
                                     at the feet of the light.
Cold, unused light,
                                   almost sleeping,
dawn light,
                     just down from the hills,
shepherdess of the dead.
                                              That which was my father
fits in that canvas sack
                                         a workman hands me
as my mother crosses herself.
                                                       Before it ends
the vision scatters:
                                   I am in the middle,
hung in a cage,
                             hung in an image.

The beginning drifts off,
                                     the end vanishes.

There is neither start nor finish:
                                                  I am in the pause,

I neither end nor begin,
                                         what I say
has neither hands nor feet.
                                                 I turn around in myself
and always find
                             the same names,
the same faces,
                          and never find myself.

My history is not mine:
                                    a syllable from that broken phrase
the city in its circular fever
                                          repeats and repeats.

City, my city,
                    insulted stela,
dishonored stone,
                                  name spat out.
Your story is History:
masked as freedom,
orbitless star,
                      a game
we all play without knowing the rules,
a game that no one wins,
                                       a game without rules,
the whim of a speculative god,
                                               a man
turned into a stuttering god.
                                          Our oracles
are aphasic speech.
                                Our prophets
seers with glasses.
coming and going
                            without beginning
                                                     without end.
No one has gone there,
                                      no one
has drunk from the fountain,
                                             no one
has opened the stone eyelids of time,
                                                           no one
has heard the first word,
                                      no one will hear the last,
the mouth that speaks it talks to itself,
                                                            no one
has gone down in the pit of the universes,
                                                                   no one
has returned from the dungheap of the suns.
dump and rainbow.
to the high terraces:
                             seven notes
dissolved in clarity.
                              Shadowless words.
We didn’t hear them, we denied them.
                                             We said they don’t exist:
we were content with noise.
                                              Sixth fioor:
I am in the middle of this phrase:
will it take me?
                        Mangled language.
Poet: gardener of epitaphs.

                                            Translated from the Spanish
                                             by Eliot Weinberger