Enrique Lihn's
The Father's Monologue
With His Infant Son

 Translated from the Spanish
by Jonathan Cohen

Nothing is lost by living, try it out;
here's a body just your size.
We made it in the dark
out of love for the arts of the flesh
but also in earnest, thinking about your visit
as if playing a new game both joyful and painful;
out of love for life, out of fear of death
and life, out of love of death
for you or for no one.

You are your body, take it, show us you like it
as we do this double gift
we have made for you and have made for ourselves.
Sure, just a little bit
of that degrading first mud: the anguish
and pleasure in a shout of impotence.
Not a bird at a distance opening in the egg's beauty,
in broad daylight, weightless and jubilant,
just a man: the beast
old from birth, defeated by flies,
drooling and panting.

But live and you'll come to see
the monster you are with kindness,
opening one eye and then the other so wide,
getting the sky into your head,
looking at it all as though from within,
asking things what their names are,
laughing with what laughs, crying with what cries,
tyrannizing cats and rabbits.

Nothing is lost by living, we have
all the time in the time ahead
to become the emptiness we are inside.
And childhood, listen:
there's no madman happier than a sane boy
nor any wise man so sure as a crazy boy.
Everything we live we've already lived
more intensely at the age of ten;
desires then
would fall asleep on each other.
Sleep came constantly, the kind of sleep
that restores the perfect disorder in everything
to free you from your body and soul;
there in that unreal castle
you were the king, queen, your henchmen,
the jester who laughs at himself,
the birds, the melodious beasts.
For making love, your mother was there
and love became that kiss on the forehead from another world,
which comforts the sick,
a soft-spoken reading, the nostalgia
of no one and nothing that music gives us.

But over the years the years go by
and here you are an adolescent already.
You come down the mountain like Zarathustra
to fight for man against man:
a grave mission no one sends you on;
you inspire distrust in your family,
you talk about God in a sarcastic tone,
your come home a day later, dead.
They say you are charming an old lady,
they have seen you doing somersaults in the air,
you prolong your studies with studies
which make your head swim.
There's no happiness that makes you so happy
as falling headlong into sadness
nor any grief that hurts you so deeply
as the pleasure of living aimlessly.
A serious age, there are some who kill themselves
because they can't put up with death,
who give in to an unjust cause
in their bloodthirsty desire for justice.
The bigger they are the harder they fall,
we lose track of the little ones.
All are betrayed in love:
love is the father of our bad habits.
If a woman feels tenderness for you
you'll force her to follow you to your grave,
to leave her family at once
and move her business somewhere else.

But fatally the moment comes
in which your youth turns its back on you
and for the first time its unforgettable face runs away from you
        as fast as you chase it
with a sidelong glance, while you sit motionless in a black chair.
The moment to do something has arrived
the whole world seems to tell you
and you say yes, nodding your head.
At the height of metaphysical decadence
you now walk with a little address book in your hand,
impeccably dressed, with the modesty of a young man making
        his way in life
willing to do anything.
The plan you made takes on air and sinks in the sky, leaving
        things just as they were.
For some time now you move among them like a fish in water.
You live on what you get, you get what you deserve, you deserve
        what you live;
you're on the right path with your cross on your back.
Congratulations are in order:
you are, finally, a man among men.

And so you reach old age
like someone who returns to his homeland
after an endless brief trip
too short to be relived, too long to tell about,
where death waits for you inside you, your skeleton
with open arms, but you refuse her
for a moment, you want to look at yourself repeatedly
long and hard in the mirror that clouds up.
Helped along by distant travelers
you come and go dressed in black, at a trot, talking
to yourself in shrieks, like a bird.
There's no time to lose, you are the last
of your generation to put out the sun
and turn to dust.

There's no time to lose in this world
made more beautiful by its imminent end.
You're seen everywhere spinning
around anything, as if in ecstasy.
Whenever you go out to the streets you come back
with your pockets stuffed with odd treasures:
pebbles, wild flowers.
Until one day you can no longer fight
to the death with death and you give in to her,
to a sleep with no way out, paler each time,
smiling, crying like a baby.

Nothing is lost by living, try it out:
here's a body just your size,
we made it in the dark
out of love for the arts of the flesh
but also in earnest, thinking of your visit
for you or for no one.

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