Under Foreign Rain — (Footnotes to a defeat) (Rome, May 1980)

Selected Poems of Juan Gelman
translated by Hardie St. Martin

XII

             My father came to America with one hand behind and the other in front to hold his trousers up.  I came to Europe with one soul behind and the other in front to hold my trousers up.  And yet there are differences: he went to stay, I came here meaning to return.

            But are there, in fact, differences?  Between the two of us we went, returned, and nobody knows yet where we’re going to end up.

             Papa: your skull is rotting, as a sign of the world’s injustice, in the country where I was born.  That’s why you spoke so little.  You didn’t have to.  As for the rest eating, sleeping, suffering, fathering children , they were necessary, natural acts, like someone’s who fills his notebook with the record of his life.

            I’ll never forget you, in the dining room’s semidarkness, turned toward the clear light of your origins.  You talked with your country.  You had never really shaken its earth from the feet of your soul.  Feet full of earth like enormous silence, lead or light.