Eduardo Cote Lamus
ELEGY FOR MY FATHER - Poem by Eduardo Cote Lamus
For my siblings
Once he lay down, he took to dying as
he had formerly taken to living,
to cutting down the eucalyptuses and building the house
and he lay down to die because he knew
he wouldn't make it beyond there.
Once, when the oxen became tired
of plowing, had not he himself worn
the yoke upon his neck and shoulders?
And the task was completed long before
the shadows came and the stars.
He also had to finish his business
wholly, and no matter what.
In his right hand, firmness
as if wielding a weapon
or directing the furrow or drawing
the circle of his life, closed,
arbitrary, but as entirely his own
as the walking stick of rough wood,
as the hat or the shoes
or the clothes he wore, already his
and made by him, as were his actions.
His greatest wealth was watching the colts
galloping freely under the wide sky
or lassoing one of them with well-aimed whistling,
marking its flank and giving it a name,
an easy name: Finehoof, Sweetdream, The Dove,
saddling the mule, talking about frosts.
The land came to him but not to his aid.
And he said words, asked
about friends who weren't there
and from his arms that came and went
as if fanning the blacksmith's fire
of his own existence, strength
fell, and sweat like anvils, power;
from his embraces there fell the days
he lived, one by one, gushing down.
But he died because he felt like it,
because he had things to do on the other side
with his wife, the one who had the days
ready for his work,
sweetness in the morning, the bread served
within reach of the heart, the window open
when, ground into wheat, he returned from the fields.
I tell you not, yet I must tell you:
we brought you to a house with dearest
friends, stayed with you, you know,
and the next day you had three burials
as was your due: come the morning
you were called even more Pablo, you answered
more to your name: you were silence.
Airborne we put you into the hands
of other memories, and your earth was then
so close. Upriver, among climates,
you turned to stone in our breasts,
you sank deeper and deeper inside us,
you were in our breasts and leaving.
You entered Pamplona as if
on horseback: we held the colt by the bridles
and you dismounted as always, among cypresses.
Because you were too high, your sisters
couldn't see you - one of them brought a bench
on which they climbed and called you Pablo Antonio,
they gradually called you Pablo between their tears.
But you showed your back, like a river.
On the slope your body became leaden:
a little later the weight was light
as if you had yourself lent a hand
and carried yourself to be buried.
We put you inside with care, with flowers, with tenderness.
I think you had between your hands
a rope and a spinning top and an ear of wheat
and a rumor of much sky inside your ears.
You know very well what I'm telling you
but still I tell you. There were
hat in hand
despite the drizzle
all those who loved you:
the one who sold you meat,
the one who bought your wheat
and the hoe-man whom you respected.
Did you find peace there? That is my question.
But I should not ask you anything.
You didn't want peace but the hard
earth to sow, the air to
vanquish with trees, difficult things.
Old peasant. Father mine,
in word and in deed like iron:
so one-time and so forever:
old man on horseback, tough old man.
Pablo and nothing more you were, and we are Pablo.
Father, how little of an Antonio you were.
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