He did not fall then, blind upon a road,
nor did his lifelong palsy disappear.
He heard no voice, save the familiar,
of the sore perplexed. The kettle steamed
and whistled. A heavy truck downshifted
near the square. He heard a child calling,
and heard a mourning dove intone its one
dull call. For all of that, his wits remained
quite dim. He breathed and spoke the words he read.
If what had been long dead then came alive,
that resurrection was by all appearances
metaphorical. The miracle arrived
without display. He held a book, and as he read
he found the very thing he’d sought. Just that.
A life with little hurt but one, the lucky gift
of a raveled book, a kettle slow to heat,
and time enough therefore to lift the book
and find in one slight passage the very wish
he dared not ask aloud, until, that is,
he spoke the words he read.
Not your ordinary ice cream, though the glaze
of these skeletal figures affects
the disposition of those grinning candies
one finds in Mexico, say, at the start of November,
though here, each face is troublingly familiar,
exhibits the style adopted just as one declines
any further style—nectar one sips just as he
draws his last, dispassionate breath, becomes
citizen of a less earnest electorate. One learns
in that city finally how to enjoy a confection,
even if a genuine taste for this circumstance
has yet to be acquired, even if it is oneself
whose sugars and oils now avail a composure
which promises never to end, nor to alter.
We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
And the few willing to listen demanded that we confess on television.
So we kept our sins to ourselves, and they became less troubling.
The halt and the lame arranged to have their hips replaced.
Lepers coated their sores with a neutral foundation, avoided strong light.
The hungry ate at grand buffets and grew huge, though they remained hungry.
Prisoners became indistinguishable from the few who visited them.
Widows remarried and became strangers to their kin.
The orphans finally grew up and learned to fend for themselves.
Even the prophets suspected they were mad, and kept their mouths shut.
Only the poor—who are with us always—only they continued in the hope.
Mogelijke antwoorden op gebed
Jouw smeekbeden – ook al dragen ze nog steeds
slechts één handtekening zijn naar behoren geregistreerd.
Jouw zorgen – ondanks hun voortdurende,
relatief beperkte reikwijdte en onbedoelde
entertainmentwaarde, helpen desalniettemin
om jouw persoon levendig voor de geest te brengen.
Jouw berouw – vrijwel geheel verborgen onder
een ontluikende, gele mist van eerlijk gezegd meer
opvallende wrok is voldoende.
Jouw voortdurende zorg voor de zieke,
de lijdende, de behoeftige armen zijn soms
herkenbaar voor mij, zo niet voor hen.
Jouw woede, jouw ijver, jouw lippensmakkende
rechtvaardige verontwaardiging jegens de velen
wiens gewoonten en sympathieën je beledigen –
deze moeten wegbranden voordat je kunt begrijpen
hoe dichtbij ik ben, met welke hartstocht ik juist deze
aanbid, de handvol die je passies opwekken.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen