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Elegy 1969

(after Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

You slave away into your old age
and nothing you do adds up to much.
Day after day you go through the same motions,
you shiver in bed, you get hungry, you want a woman.

Heroes standing for lives of sacrifice and obedience
fill the parks through which you walk.
At night in the fog they open their bronze umbrellas
or else withdraw to the empty lobbies of movie houses.

You love the night for its power of annihilating,
but while you sleep, your problems will not let you die.
Waking only proves the existence of The Great Machine
and the hard light falls on your shoulders.

You walk among the dead and talk
about times to come and matters of the spirit.
Literature wasted your best hours of love-making.
Week-ends were lost, cleaning your apartment.

You are quick to confess your failure and to postpone
collective joy to the next century. You accept
rain, war, unemployment and the unjust distribution of wealth
because you can’t, all by yourself, blow up Manhattan Island.

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