from Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven

Vicente Huidobro

          First of all, one needs to know how many times we must abandon our lover and flee from sex to sex until the ends of the earth.
          There, the place where the void draws its violin bow over the horizon and man transforms into bird and angel into gemstone.
          The Eternal Father is creating darkness in his laboratory and is working on making the blind go deaf. He has an eye in his hand and doesn’t know who to put it in. And inside a beaker, he has an ear copulating with another eye.
          We are far off, at the end of the end, where a man hanging by the feet of a star sways head down in the air. The wind bending the trees softly waves her hair.
          Flying streams touch down in fledgling forests where birds curse the awakening of so many useless flowers.
          How right they are in insulting those dark, palpitating things.
          If it were only a matter of cutting down the captain of the flowers and bleeding his heart of its superfluous feeling, his heart full of secrets and fragments of the universe.
          The mouth of a loved man on a drum.
          The breasts of the unforgettable girl nailed to a tree where the nightingales peck at them.
          And the hero’s statue at the pole.
          Destroy it all—everything—with bullet and knife.
          The idols are fighting it out underwater.
          —Isolde, Isolde, how many miles separate us, how much sex between you and me.
          You know very well that God gouges out the eyes of flowers, as his obsession is blindness.
          And that he transforms the spirit into a packet of feathers and turns the brides sitting on roses into Pianola snakes, into sister serpents of the flute, the same flute that kisses itself during nights of snow and beckons to them from afar.
          But you don’t know why the blackbird shreds the tree between its bloody digits.
          And that is the mystery.
          Forty days and forty nights clambering from branch to branch as in the time of the Flood. Forty days and forty nights of mystery among crags and peaks.
          I could fall tumbling from destination to destination, but I’ll always keep the sky’s memory.
          Have you experienced visions of height? Have you ever seen the heart of light? Sometimes I become a sprawling jungle and rove around the worlds like an army.
          Behold the mouth of the rivers.
          On certain afternoons the sea can barely suffice as my theater.
          The street of dreams has neither trees, nor a woman crucified to a flower, nor a boat flipping through the pages of the sea.
          The street of dreams has an immense navel from which the neck of a bottle peeps. Inside, there’s a dead bishop who changes color every time you shake the bottle.
          There are four candles that go on and off in successive turns. Sometimes a flash of lightning reveals a dismembered woman in heaven who has been plummeting for a hundred and forty years.
          The sky hides its mystery.
          At all stopovers one imagines a hidden assassin. The meek singers die of heart attacks from the mere thought of it.
          Thus, the sickly butterflies will devolve to their larval condition which they should never have left. The ear will relapse into infancy and fill itself with marine echoes and those algae that float in the eyes of certain birds.
          Only Isolde knows the mystery. But she skims across the rainbow, her tremulous fingers in search of a special sound.
          And if a blackbird pecks at her eye, she lets it drink all the water it wants with the same smile that attracts herds of buffalo.
          Over which heart, swollen with bitterness, could you float across all the oceans, in any sea?
          Because you must know that clinging to a heart like a buoy is dangerous because of the sea caves that attract them, and where the octopi, which knot themselves into snakes or elephant trunks, would seal the exit forever. 
          Realize what a mountain is with its arms raised in forgiveness and think that it is less dangerous than the seas and more amenable to friendship.
          However, your destiny is to be in love with danger, the danger within you and outside you, to kiss the lips of the abyss, to achieve, with the assistance of darkness, the final triumph of all your endeavors and dreams sprinkled with morning dew.
          Otherwise, be thankful and withdraw to the bottom of mankind’s memory.
          —Isolde, Isolde, bears were once flowers in the ice age. When the thaw came they liberated themselves and ran off in all directions.
          Think of the resurrection.
          Only you know the miracle. You have seen the miracle execute itself in front of a hundred astonished harps with all the cannons pointing towards the horizon.
          Then there was a parade of sailors before a king in a faraway land. The waves were waiting impatiently for the return of their kind while the sea broke out in applause.
          The thermometer was falling slowly because the blackbird had stopped singing and thought about plunging from a trapeze into the heart of the world.
          Now there is only one thing I fear: it is that you emerge from some lamp or vase and talk to me in eloquent terms as magnolias do in the evening. The room would fill with agonizing dragonflies and I would have to sit to avoid passing out unconscious.
          Death would be thought itself. Reflected anywhere eyes would turn.
          Over the castle the general’s skeleton will signal as if with semaphores. We will count the skulls that crawl through the field fastened by an endless rope to the tail of a sleepwalking horse that no one claims as his own.
          Black slaves will cheer over the bellies of female slaves, who are as drunk as them, without realizing that the wind is a ghost and that the distant trees are floating above a cemetery.
          Who has counted all of their dead?
          What if all the windows opened and if all the lamps started singing and if the cemetery burst into flames?
          For every bird in the sky there will be a hunter on earth.
          Trumpets will sound and the flags will become Bengali lights. Faith died, as did all the birds of prey that gnawed at your heart.
          Migratory statues are flying by.
          On the immense plain, the torment of the idols can be heard amid the chanting trees.
          Flowers are fleeing in terror.
          The doors open wide to an unknown music and the years of the mage depart while he’s sitting down in agony, his hands pressed to his chest.
          How many things have died inside us. How much death do we carry within us. Why do we cling to our dead? Why do we insist on bringing them back? They prevent us from seeing the birth of an idea. We are afraid of the new light emerging, which we are not used to yet, as we are not used to our dead, inert and without any dangerous surprise. You have to leave the dead for the living.
          —Isolde, bury all of your dead.
          Think, remember, forget. May your memory forget its memories, may your oblivion remember what it has forgotten. Make sure not to die before your death.
          How to lend a bit of grandeur to this present beast that only bends its weary knees at these late hours when the moon comes flying and places itself in the foreground.
          And yet, we live waiting for a chance, for the formation of a sidereal sign in that allegorical beyond where even the sound of our bells does not reach.
          So, we are waiting for that big chance:
          That the North Pole tips like a hat in greeting.
          That the continent we have long awaited emerges, while we sit here, behind the horizon’s bars.
          That the murderer dashes by, firing random rounds at his pursuers.
          That it is known why that girl was born and not the boy promised by dreams and proclaimed so many times before.
          That we see that yawning cadaver stretching underground.
          That we see the glorious ghost among the tree-lined avenues of heaven.
          That suddenly all the rivers stop at the shout of a command.
          That the heavens change places.
          That the seas pile up into a great pyramid taller than all Babels dreamt of by ambition.
          That a desperate wind blows and extinguishes the stars.
          That a luminous finger types a word in the night sky.
          That the house over there collapses.
          For this we live, trust me, for this we live and not for anything else. For this we have a voice and for this we have our voice’s net.
          And for this we have this anguished coursing in our veins and a wounded animal galloping in our chest.
          For this flesh reddens, martyred by language, and thought swells, fed by subterranean streams. For this the howl of fright inherited from the most tragic grandfather.
          Behead the monster that roars at the doorsteps of dream. And then let no one forbid anything.
          Someone speaks and a poppy springs up at the pinnacle of the voice before the opium of the future gaze can shine out.
          —Peace on Earth to the nocturnal sailor.
          The silent explorers raise their heads and the adventure takes off its golden suit.
          That is the meaning of sunset.
          Perhaps the sunset trusts us and then you would have understood the signs of the night. You would have understood the inventions of silence. The gaze of the night. The threshold of the abyss. The pilgrimage of the mountains.
          The night’s crossing.
          —Isolde, Isolde, I follow my destiny.
          Where have you hidden the oasis you had repeatedly promised me?
          The light grew tired of walking.
          Tell me: where does this ladder take me, the one that springs from your eyes and gets lost in the air?
          Don’t you know that my destiny is to voyage? Don’t you understand the explorer’s vanity and the ghost of adventure?
          It is a matter of blood and bone within the field of a special magnet. It is the irrevocable destiny of a fabulous meteor.
          It is not a matter of love in the flesh—it is a matter of life, a matter of a roving spirit, of a nomadic bird.
          All these women are trees or rocks, perhaps unnecessary, lying in repose along the way.
          Bottles of water or barrels of intoxication, predominantly without their own light. Like cathedrals, they follow a musical principle. Each chord has its correspondence and everything consists of knowing how to play the point of the echo that must respond. It is easy to make fabrics of sound and construct a true roof or magnificent cupolas for rainy days.
          If destiny allows, we can find sanctuary for a while and count the fingers of she who extends her arms towards us.
          Then the ghost will compel us to march ahead. We will jump over her heaving breasts which are cupolas because, when on her back, she resembles a temple. Rather, it is temples that resemble women with their breast-like spires, their central cupola like a head, and their doorway wanting to resemble the sex through which one enters searching for the life that pulses in the womb and from which that same life must issue.
          But we don’t have to accept such an imitation, nor can we believe in such a life. In a life which comes out blindfolded and goes crashing through all the trees in the landscape. We will only believe in flowers that are the cradles of giants, even though we know that a mocking dwarf sleeps inside every bud.
          And, in the distance, coral mountains are sweetly smiling.
          The mountains smile because a blind man has sat on them to listen to the drum rolls of the volcano. But what happens on the plains is the most important yet since the trees in the forest have become serpents and are disputing in rhythm on account of a special flute.
          I forgot to mention that there is also a lake and that this lake departs depending on the wind’s direction. Sometimes it recedes out of view; sometimes it’s gone for many years and comes back another color. Sometimes it grows hungry and curses men that don’t shipwreck in due time. Other times it travels on four feet and gnaws for hours upon hours on the flotsam of all that tragedy amassed upon its shores or the reflections of secret times unknown.
          If the eye’s bird falls in the lake a geyser springs up in the mountains. A beautiful geyser like a tree with a woman balanced on top.
          The lake can also balance on the top of the tree. Everything depends on my will and on the drum roll at the proper time.
          All those spies hiding behind the trees, they aren’t expecting the miracle as they would have us believe but the naked blind woman who goes out in the evenings to walk her lost statue and who might collide with them.
          You are wasting time.
          Look, look: there’s a fire on the moon.
          Dressed in white, Isolde came like a cloud.
          Then the moon began to fall enveloped in flames. A reflection of fire danced on the beach.
          The specters rose one by one with every coming wave. All of you, hiding there, your time has come to tremble before death’s voracity.
          The setting sun draws a halo on the head of the final castaway, who floats adrift, no longer hearing the songs of the shore.
          Wolves are pacing with glowing eyes between the branches of the night, huddled together and crying out for no good reason.
          That man, bigger than the others, opens his mouth in the middle of the garden and begins swallowing fireflies for hours upon end.
          The trees are twisted because of a strange pain. And a bunch of meteors plummeting from the sky are forming spirals in our atmosphere as if they were rocks passing through water.
          A thick smoke envelops everything. Now the only thing shining is the wolves’ eyes and the man full of fireflies. All else is in a penumbral light.
          The mountain opens its passageways and the blind man enters with extended arms.
          There’s a tree, a heavyset tree that’s writhing in dusk’s crepuscular fire.
          Up above, God is rocking a newborn planet.
          Halos fall to the earth. One after the other, hundreds of halos fall to the earth, some on top of certain heads . . . and nothing else?
          An island of palm trees springs up from the sea for the newlyweds strolling side by side.
          Someday they will find the head that one of them had lost, motionless in the same exact place where they lost it.
          When? Where? Which one of them?
          There’s the anguish, Isolde, behind the mountain. The anguish is over there.
          The migrant forests will not reach as far.
          There’s a lone sandal in the middle of the earth.
          The march of passing evenings can be felt at the bottom of the sea—in this moment when everything shimmers with intoxication.
          There’s a hat over there, head high.
          There’s a cane sticking up in the ground within hand’s reach.
          And there’s nothing else. Because none of you can see the ghost smiling at the dog at this very moment.
          None of you knows why the curtains behind the bed were moving.
          Nor why Isolde’s cheeks blushed like two curtains being drawn.
          And why her legs trembled like two curtains opened wide.

translated from the Spanish and French by Ignacio Infante and Michael Leong

© Fundación Vicente Huidobro