great age of machines

We awoke to the great age of machines. A Valparaiso family gone diagonally up a cliff-face. The winches and exploding harpoons of Quintay. It was 1922, according to the mechanical bellhop recently installed in a hat shop window—reputedly the first robot to reach South America, its cane tapping time on the windowpane. The age of transistor radios was replaced by the age of things the transistor radio said, and then by the age of only what we wanted to hear. It was then we resumed the search for the great age of machines: hands in search of handles in search of doors in search of closets in search of rooms in search of houses in search of suburbs... Later, we ducked down an alley to avoid the great age of machines: police vans with marauding water-cannons—a sprinkler system tending the hatless and the helmeted, both sides jostling for the future. 

A girl threw a rock, a boy a flower. Two policewomen slept together in a park. Small rooms on wires went careering up the harbour-front hills; machines adjusted the tension of the miscellaneous stringed instruments of Providencia. Things were said. A woman’s lips were a red bird reflected in a visor. Then we said goodbye to the great age of machines. We adjusted the brightness. Goodbye also to the exhausted Coquito palm, victim of its own sugary sap, the last forest swallowed up by the last wine-cask. These final years, days, minutes and seconds of the age of machines overtaken by a wave of dogs, bicycles and women on dizzying heels, looking down on this world laid out beneath them.

Gregory O'Brien

from Citizen of Santiago

Valparaiso, 2013

Valparaiso, 2013