Álvaro de Campos


I can't sleep, and I don't expect to sleep-
I don't even hope to sleep-not even in death.

Insomnia vast as the stars awaits me,
And a world-wide, useless yawn.

I can't sleep; I can't read when I lie awake at night,
I can't write when I lie awake at night,
I can't think when I lie awake at night-
My God, I can't even dream when I lie awake at night!

Ah, the opium of being any other person!

I can't sleep, here I lie, a corpse awake, feeling,
And my feeling is an empty thought.
They rush through my head in a jumble, things that happened to me-
I regret them, and blame myself-
They rush through my head in a jumble, things that didn't happen to me-
I regret them, and blame myself-
They rush through my head in a jumble, things without meaning-
I even regret and blame myself for them, and I can't sleep.
I don't have the strength to find the energy to light a cigarette.
I stare at my bedroom wall as if it were the Universe.
Outside, there's the silence of this whole thing.
A great appalling silence at any other time,
At any other time when I might be able to feel.

I'm writing really nice poems-
Poems saying I have nothing to say,
Poems insisting on saying it,
Poems, poems, poems, poems, poems . . .
So many poems . . .
And all truth, all life outside of them and me!

I'm tired, I can't sleep, I'm feeling, and I don't know what to feel about it.
I'm a sensation without a corresponding person,
An abstraction of self-consciousness with nothing inside
Except what's necessary to feel the consciousness,
Except-I have no idea except what!
I can't sleep. I can't sleep. I can't sleep.
Enormous sleepiness throughout body and mind, covering my eyes, all through my soul!
The only thing not sleeping is my inability to sleep!

O daybreak, you're so late . . . Come . . .
Come, uselessly,
Bring me a day just like today, and a night just like tonight . . .
Come bring me the happiness of this sad hope,
Because you always bring happiness and hope,
According to the old literature of the senses.
Come, bring hope, come, bring hope.
My exhaustion sinks into my mattress.
My back hurts because I'm not lying on my side.
If I were lying on my side, my back would hurt from lying on my side.
Come on, daybreak, come!

What time is it? I don't know.
I don't have the energy to reach for the clock,
I don't have the energy for anything, not even for nothing . . .
Only for these lines, written the day after.
That's right, the day after.
Poems are always written the day after.

Absolute night, absolute quiet, outside.
All Nature at peace.
Humanity rests to forget its sorrow.
Humanity forgets its joys and sorrows.
That's what they say.
Humanity forgets, yes, humanity forgets,
But even when it's awake, Humanity forgets.
Exactly. But I can't sleep.


[trans. Chris Daniels & Dana Stevens]

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