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Giannina Braschi

1953–

Giannina Braschi was born on February 5, 1953, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She holds a PhD in Spanish Golden Age Literature from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She is the author of several collections of poetry including El Imperio de los Sueños (Anthropos Editorial, 1988), which was translated into English by Tess O'Dwyer as Empire of Dreams (Yale University Press, 1994); Asalto al tiempo (V. Pozanco, 1981); and La Comedia Profana (Anthropos, 1980). She has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN American Center, among others. She has taught at Rutgers University, City University of New York, and Colgate University in New York. 

By This Poet

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Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
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.
 

Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
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.
 

Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to the sermon of memories and sorrows. Listen to hell. Why didn’t I do what I should have done. I repent. I’ve  sinned. I have memories. And torments. I am burning in the flames of memories. Why didn’t I keep quiet? Why did I do that? I repent a thousand times. Why did I betray you, and why do I remember you? Oh woe, woe is me! Oh, and I stood you up in the street. Listen to memories. Listen to them again. Why did I betray you? Why did you leave and forget me? And I grieve and remember you. And the worst were my tears. And the worst was your memory. Listen to the soap opera and listen to memory. Oh, and now what’s left for me. I’m left with monologues, soliloquies, and memories. I’m left with shadows. I’m left with memories. I don’t want monologues or sorrows or soliloquies. I am a singing bird. I am a child. I am the nightingale. What does winter or autumn or spring or summer know of memory? They know nothing of memory. They know that seasons pass and return. They know that they are seasons. That they are time. And they know how to affirm themselves. And they know how to impose themselves. And they know how to maintain themselves. What does autumn know of summer? What sorrows do seasons have? None hate. None love. They pass.