Congested and false
like the tracery of a garden in a mirror
the imagined city
where I’ve never set foot
interweaves unsociable distances
and repeats its houses
as lips go on mouthing prayers.
The savage sun,
comparable to the incisive tiger paw,
rends the massy darkness
of temples, dung heaps, prisons, patios;
it is bound to bruise the walls
with drunken colors
and hang haversacks of heat
on slithery shoulders.
the city, which had been oppressed by
a foliage of stars
spills over the horizon
as a stone perforates a pond
and in this morning full
of steps and sleep,
light opens up the streets like branches.
The forest
where the beasts’ stench cries out
goes to wrack far away, runs aground
on the reefs
of a dawn all in bright shards,
while conjointly with it rises
in all the shutters that give on the east,
and the voice of the muezzin
who grieves from his high tower,
the weightless dawn.
(To think
that while I toy with uncertain metaphors,
the city I sing of persists
in one definite point in the world,
with its fixed and unavoidable visions,
as replete as dreams are
with the wrath of a hurtful misery,
with environs and barracks
and men with putrefied lips
who feel the cold in their teeth.)

(from Fervor de Buenos Aires, 1923. translated by Keith Botsford)