Sunday 17 February 2013

Sunday Poem

The woman asleep in the subway
conjures a hundred drawers that suddenly open
in metallic fury on screeching tracks,
she sees herself prone in one of them
deeper and longer than a woman’s body,
the way babies were at times laid down
during family gatherings low on beds—
she hears the nearby stirring
of files anxious to see the day,
she is lulled by the rocking
of laser printers and calculators,
a whole world of keyboards embraces
and enfolds her, she thinks of secretaries
who do entrechats in high heels
and young clerks whose creaseless shirts
speak to her softly of the smoothness of a cheek,
the touch of a fingernail ember red,
while deeper into the night she turns over,
jolted back still by the graceless ring
of a telephone blind to her presence,
she wonders if innocence
is enough protection, if to sleep during the day
was part of the world’s plan,
its violent and ambitious program,
its machinery for good and evil,
or if an invisible finger gently impels
the drawer to close back over her,
ushering in silence and eternal night.

The woman asleep in the subway dreams
of hundreds of closed doors
of drawers locked last night at five o’clock
but see, the night swelled
with the symphonic song of downloadings,
the exquisite chorale of RAMs
throwing off multihued showers of icons
and it was like the rustling of a world near at hand
the hypothesis of a prayer for a better life
the whole office an incandescent aleph
and she confessed to having sat for a moment
amid the magic of this place and its wisdom
wondering if midnight would sound,
savouring the happiness of not knowing.

In the coma of the machines, in the night time
of programs collating the universe,
she makes a wide swipe to sweep away the dust,
wipes the coffee ring left by a cup,
and suddenly the vibration brings a screen to life,
a half-naked woman’s smile seems to have pity on her,
then it’s the picture of a tropical beach,
the lace cathedral of a European city,
Monet’s water lilies, Corcovado’s Christ—
she pauses her hard-working hand for a moment,
breathes the dry air of the large office,
dumbfounded as by a comet’s passage,
her two sore feet lifted from earth,
her two feet afloat
on the heights of this tower
lighting up the night.

Each night her soft skin yields
to the hubbub of machines,
the bristled brushes,
her head lit up by rainbows
in the toxic whiff of disinfectant,
while it’s a field where jasmine grew that she remembers,
and great cool shadows stitched by eucalyptus,
and it’s as though horses haunt her body,
and mournful donkeys,
and brute bones beneath their fur that she recalls,
and their huge orphan members—
then nothing but sea and fog,
and in her mind as childhood cooled
journeys already pledged,
that and accomplishment, but never
this barking of weary hours at eight in the morning,
when the great swell of wage earners,
bank tellers and clerks,
advances like a wave,
with herself the ocean’s quarry,
and the day dawns
with sand and clocks without hands.

From The Major Verbs (2012) by Pierre Nepveu, translated by Donald Winkler.

(Painting "Woman Sleeping" by Carola Moreno.)

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