Empire of Dreams (Epic Poetry)


Poems by Giannina Braschi

3 Poems

Questions Don’t Change the Truth 

Questions don’t change the truth. But they give it motion. They focus my truth from another angle. And you said: we’re cleaning up the truth. We must clarify certain things. 

You don’t tell the truth and your jacket eventually comes back made of another material, and your shoes say sure! and run back to you telling my truth. Even if it’s raining now, your truth may be that it’s not raining inside like it’s raining outside. Though silent you may be saying what I’m thinking when you weren’t talking. Don’t pay attention to me and keep saying come when you said go. Then don’t expect me to listen when you say come. You’ll come with your words get out and the door will open. I hear those words and the door opens halfway. Then you’ll come and I’ll know how to say: get out.

On the Top Floor of the Empire State

On the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers – the New York Times, in headlines, and the Daily News-call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.

I Love Hiccups

I love hiccups and I love sneezes and I love blinks and I love belches and I love gluttons. I love hair. I love bears. For me, the round. For me, the world. Round is the happy face. And round is the midday. And when the moon is most beautiful is when it’s round. Sex is round. And the heart also. The hand is round. The mouth also. Sneezes are round. And hiccups also. The milk from the breast of Lady Macbeth was also round. I would have liked to be like her and be bad. I am good. I am Bacchus. I am sex. And I am hiccup. And I am sneeze. And I am cough. Hoarse. Hoarse. Hoarse. I am thunder. I am voice. I am obscene. Obscene. Obscene. I am pure like the tit or the milk. I am water, sea, or fish, or tadpole. I am round.

Fiction, an excerpt

Part III. The Intimate Diary of Solitude

The Adventures of Mariquita Samper

I was trudging along after filming part of Profane Comedy—said the Narrator—when suddenly I saw The Intimate Diary of Solitude was already playing at the Arts Cinema. I bought my ticket. The usher handed me the stub. I bought some popcorn and sat down to watch The Adventures of Mariquita Samper. I looked around the Arts Cinema. It was spacious and comfortable with four escape doors: Exit One. Exit Two. Exit Three. Exit Four. Though each door walked a character from The Intimate Diary of Solitude. A total of four characters took up the front row. And although there were only four, or five, or six characters, they multiplied, doubling and tripling as the scenes progressed. I ate a piece of popcorn. Fell fast asleep. And didn’t wake up until the lights came on. And then I immediately began to write the first scene of The Intimate Diary of Solitude, entitled The Adventures of Mariquita Samper.

Epigraph: “A closed mouth catches no flies.”

My name is Mariquita Samper. I work at Macy’s. My job is to make up people who don’t like to make themselves up. I’m an artist. I’m the makeup artist of the characters of this fiction that separates fantasy from reality. And I’m shocked by the things that happen. A lady asked me to paint her dog’s nails. Lady, I said, I’m Mariquita Samper, Macy’s makeup artist. Not a canine pedicurist. Wuff! Wuff!—barked the dog. And I was so sorry. Then a guy with a perfume tray passed by, and a perfume that reeked like “a barking doesn’t bite” pervaded the store. I caught a whiff of sirens. Saw toys tooting. And a whole pack of police dogs came charging at us. Yes, it’s Macy’s, the World’s Largest Store! Yes, it’s New York. I ran for my life as soon as I heard …

Adaptations and Poetry Translations

El imperio de los sueños was first published in Barcelona by Anthropos Editorial  (1988). This body of work represents Giannina Braschi’s early poetry written in Spanish. Epic in scale, this Puerto Rican poetry collection includes three books: Asalto al tiempo (1981), La Comedia profana (1985), and Diario íntimo de la soledad (1988). 

Braschi’s poems have been widely anthologized and published in a myriad of editions, formats, and languages. Of note, Tess O’Dwyer’s English rendition of Empire Dreams won the Columbia University Translation Center Award and inaugurated the Yale Library of World Literature in Translation (Yale University Press, 1994). A Swedish version by Helena Eriksson and Hana Nordenhök was published as Drömmarnas imperium (Tranan, 2012). 

Braschi’s epic poems have been incorporated into artworks by her contemporaries in the fields of illustration, painting, and mixed media. Her collaborations on artist books include Libro de payasos y bufones with Italian printmaker Giorgio Upiglio (Grafica Uno, 1987) and Two Crowns of the Egg with photographer Michael Somoroff (Damiani, 2014). Her poems also inform architecture and design projects, such as Urbanismo ecológico en América Latina edited by Mohsen Mostafavi (Harvard University Graduate School of Design/GG, 2019)

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