Empire of Dreams




PART I. Assault on Time

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.

PART II. Profane Comedy

Dedication and Warning

This book is dedicated to the entire cast of Profane Comedy. To the actors who play the roles of drunkards and buffoons. It is also dedicated to all the people I do not mention but who helped me with the setting of the stage and the costumes of the actors. I must thank all of you for having listened to my poems. This book was written to be sung and to be read in public and to be heard by large audiences. And to be proclaimed at festivals and gala concerts. With elegant dresses. And makeup. And actors. And extras. And comedies. It was written for carnivals and orgies. It was written for well-being and joy. And it was written for the company. It was written for the world and for life and for crowds and masses. It was written for elitists and thinkers and philosophers. It is the book of exclamations and interjections. And it is the book of Bacchus and Faustus. And of the poet-child. And of the poet-actor. And of the poet-philosopher. All these poets and the poems never written by philosophers are in the pages of this book. And children’s stories are here. And the prima donna is here. And the singer. And here is Giannina, dressed like a clown, giving the right cues to all the actors of Profane Comedy. They are all nervous and will soon begin to sing their complaints and their laments. Soon the alarm will sound. Soon Profane Comedy will begin. Soon fortune-tellers and buffoons will speak. Soon Pastoral will arrive. And soon Profane Comedy will end.

Pastoral; or, The Inquisition of Memories

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.


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 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. The 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 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)