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The sadness of God




The sadness of God
('Tristesse de Dieu', Jules Supervielle)

Just as when it all began
I see you come and go 
on the trembling earth,
with one great difference:

my work is no longer mine:
I gave it all to you.
But if you're my people
misfortune is your own

and beyond my help.
All I could provide
to prove my warmth
was your tears, your strength.

The ache in your soul
is what’s left of me.
It was all I could do.
I can’t help the mother

whose son will die
but I can offer you light,
candles of hope.
If it were any different

do you think the narrow cot
would feel the weight
of the sickly child?
It’s as if my work

was someone else’s.
All that I made
slips farther away.
The stream that flows

down the mountain
has no thought of returning.
I have as much to say to you
as the potter to his pot:

one is deaf, the other 
speechless before his work. 
I can see you careening
towards terrible precipices

but I can’t point them out
let alone help you avoid them.
Like orphans in the the snow
you must save yourselves.

Every day,
behind my veil of silence,
I mutter to myself:
‘There’s someone else

making a mess
of what could so easily
be done well, or someone
stumbling blindly

because he hasn’t the patience
to look out. And why is she
leaning so far over the balcony?
Has she forgotten gravity?

Why hasn’t the pilot
checked his engine?’
All I can do is signal
my invisible farewell.

I know I’m repeating myself
but I can do nothing more for you.
I’m a fading memory,
you’re living in a memory

as you climb your hillsides
towards revelation.
Dismayed equally
by prayers and blasphemy

I’m everywhere at once
and nowhere.
Unmoving, I move
from heaven to heaven

like a wanderer inside myself,
a distracted hermit.
Long used to distance
I grow farther away,

straying in my mind
like a child in the forest.
I call out to myself,
haul myself in to my centre.
That’s why I made you,
to see it clearly,
to live in a body, I
who have no hands or face.

I want to thank you
for giving so much
to what will last so briefly
on our treasured earth,

my child, my darling,
O your God-given courage,
my son: ahead of me
you’ve gone 

roaming the world 
in my place, not clothed 
in invulnerable skin
but in your own poor body.

Each one of you knows
how to die, there’s no need
to learn, you know how to be
the perfect corpse

that can be rolled every which way
without fault.
God outlives you,
he alone survives the massacre.

Even alive, you die a little
as you go about your business,
your trembling loves.
You have a brain,

fingers to work the world
as you want it,  you can make 
reason and madness
parade in your cage,

you have all the animals I made,
you can run and swim
like dogs and fishes, creep
like the tiger or the week-old lamb,

you can bring death on yourselves
like the reindeer or the scorpion.
But I stay in my shell
utterly invisible,

and will never be found on earth.
Pity the God
who could not make you happy,
you who are

scraps of my own being,
sparks glittering in the air.
I offer you the brazier
and hope you find the fire.

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