Enrique Lihn's
S E A  B R E E Z E
 Translated from the Spanish 
by Jonathan Cohen, John Felstiner
and David Unger

We are the victims of an old aggression
let's stay calm or else rage
built up for years will turn on us.
Hate for no reason can wear this pensioner's face
absorbed in gardening chores
under the shadow of his wife in an empty house.
This person can split in two
and show up elsewhere, at night, in very shady company
near the scene of any crime, and warily attend
a drug dealer's secret wedding.
Let the old sleeping dog lie,
under his mangy dusty coat he bristles in dreams of massacre
there beneath stained snow in Transylvania.
Let's store for winter
the best resources of a good upbringing
in spring we'll say that butterflies and that trees
and come summer perhaps it will be easier
to collect dividends from a bland behavior,
so then we'll give in easily to hypnosis
and the sunlit sea, under a sky that is in itself salvation
will spawn and rock our fond desires.
To be sheer nothingness or to be the nothing we are; dust
        and mere dust
that will never turn into anything
and somehow to live on the absence constantly
moving toward the future because we are that absence.
Nothing of all this can resist
the sea breeze and the boundless myriad
of seabirds wheeling at the edge of tasseled waves
while the sea folds its mantle over and over on the sand
and that sun, unique each time, lives on the aura of its days,
        eternal for us
saying its hic and nunc, going sheer white in the burst
        of the waves.
A dreadful old man leaves his torture gear about
and out of reach of the kids (wisely invisible)
near the winding seaside paths of a country house
night, as its name suggests, will bring us rest
maybe unquiet dreams but just as forgetful
hard to reconstruct in daylight among the dunes.
Yes, we're given this happiness, simple yet secure,
the kind whose own slowness leaves our dreams behind:
unknowingly the furies chase us elsewhere
maybe they stage their act in some nearby resort
a harbor that takes them in with drunken arms
sweat of masks that soak up dusty salt.
Some stray mouse squeaks for a moment at most on the roof
in the claws of a sun-loving cat.
Our calm depends on so little,
but for that moment this little's more than enough
it's far too much, an overbearing if invisible gesture
and the old man who only seems godlike but isn't
a table d'hôte Beelzebub, resigns himself to wait
for passage toward a harsher season that will make his
        meddling easier.

The analyst gets ready at his couch.
The priest, if there is one, practices absolution
before a cracked mirror that multiplies his face
while the guardians of established Order hope
that for once this chaos will do us harm.
From the top of any hierarchy history's shaky voice
is haranguing away, a full-sized statue
aroused by the greed of its incoherence,
that thick breath is all of the Word
that has survived carnivore teeth ripping it apart
a century or two gone by for nothing
drowned in introspection or abstruse words
so the so-called wheel of fortune turns
meekly as a lamb on sacrificial stone.
Inside the kingdom you know all this is not of this world
for reasons even beyond your control.
Besides things have always been like this
it's not a matter of skepticism but facts
alongside them words are superfluous.
We're split into these absurd characters or they
have split into us, it's the same either way.
Actually we should have foreseen it
since they resemble us in some strange way,
we know them inside and out.

This is only the balance of a few years' life,
endured from the start in guilty exile
neither priest nor analyst knows anything about the Word
it's something deaf, dumb and blind that takes on all
our faults with no feeling of responsibility
ours or others', it's the same either way.

A little man appears on the Vatican balcony
to satisfy Anglo-Saxon humor
and gives an absurd lesson on sex.
Doctor, the Id is at the base of things
and as you said, its shady accomplice
works itself out in the windings of empty speech
on the chance of an inspiration based on its own chatter.
While the Word suffers from permanent aphasia
it's the same beast as fifty thousand years ago
all its shapes lost along the way.
A cloud stuffed under soil to rot,
some toad or stone would go about it better
since it goes about its work half-frenzied deaf,
dumb and blind neither on or off course
and the idea of the absurd still just an idea
says nothing of what we can or cannot imagine
conforming to our merely human habits.

This vague aggressiveness that strikes us suddenly
at the end of any day, at the turn of the seasons
and even in face of the sea breeze
is a clear call to the simplest of pleasures
even the most unbridled sort of pleasure
this urgent obscure need to break
the garden's balance, with a coarse word
first of all it's a fact not a cause or effect
a hubbub that dies down under the right conditions
and against which precautions or the situations aren't enough
whether we store it up or not, in itself, it's uncalled-for
an attribute the same as scandal
hate for no reason or love for no reason
absorbed or not in its lack of presence
and not nostalgic either, simply a fact
resisting comparisons that try to pacify it
old sleeping dog or part-time gardener
for now it is and it isn't our only truth.

– Thursday, February 12, 1976 –

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