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Eiffel Tower

  
Robert Delaunay: La Tour Eiffel et Jardin du Champ de Mars, 1922

for Robert Delaunay

Tour Eiffel
Guitare du ciel
Guitar of the sky

                              Attracting words
                              to your telegraphy
                              like a rosebush its bees

At night
the Seine stops flowing

                       Telescope or bugle

                                           EIFFEL TOWER

It’s a hive of words
an inkwell of honey

At the end of dawn
a spider with wire legs
spun a web of clouds

               My boy
               to climb the Eiffel Tower
               you climb up on a song

             Do
                   re
                        mi
                              fa
                                   so
                                        la
                                             ti
                                                  do

                                   Nous sommes en haut
                                   We’re at the top

A bird sings                                         It’s the wind
in the telegraph                                    of Europe
antennas                                             the electric wind

Hats fly off
They have wings but can’t sing

Jacqueline
Daughter of France
What do you see up there?

The Seine’s asleep
under the shadow of its bridges

I can see the Earth turning
and I blow my bugle
to all the seas

                                         On the road
                                         of your perfume
                                         all the bees and all the words take off

                                         On the four horizons
                                who hasn’t heard this song

I AM THE QUEEN OF THE DAWN OF THE POLES
I AM THE COMPASS ROSE OF THE WINDS THAT
     FADES EVERY FALL
AND FILLED WITH SNOW
I DIE FROM THE DEATH OF THAT ROSE
ALL YEAR LONG A BIRD SINGS INSIDE MY HEAD

That’s how the Tower spoke to me one day

Eiffel Tower
              Aviary of the world
                                         Sing                             Sing

Bell-clang of Paris

The giant hanging in the void
is a poster for France

                                          On the day of Victory
                                          you’ll tell it to the stars


The Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (1893–1948) is one of the few poets of the century whose life deserves a fat biography, which has never been written. In the thick of modernist “isms,” he created his own—Creationism—of which he was the only member, and which instructed poets not to sing of the rose, but to make it bloom in the poem. He collaborated or fought with nearly everyone in the international avant-garde, participated in the Irish Liberation and the Spanish Civil War, made paintings of his poems, was a screenwriter in Hollywood, a candidate for president in Chile, and never recovered from the wounds he received as a correspondent in the Second World War. His book-length poem of an “antipoet” hurtling through Einsteinian space, Altazor, is surely the fastest-reading, most entertaining long poem of modernism.

He wrote in both Spanish and French (and occasionally English)—sometimes writing the same poem in both of his primary languages, so it becomes unclear which is the “original” and which the “translation.” “Eiffel Tower,” inspired by the paintings of Robert Delaunay, was written during World War I in French, and this translation attempts to play, as Huidobro often did, with his bilingualism.

—E.W.


This poem will appear in Elsewhere, edited by Eliot Weinberger, to be published by Open Letter Books in March 2014.

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