My Father in His Coffin

My Father in His Coffin
Father, progenitor, godlike,
What a nothingness
You are, and I, how ungodly.

For one whose father’s gone,
In the wide world,
Is godless, all on his own.

Looming above me from afar,
And sternly handsome,
Your head, so very familiar.

Still I hear you, like a cloudburst,
You giant, you
Who sired me and who loved me first.

Where are you? Tell me where to find
You. Where’s your heart,
And mind, your shining human mind?

Once strong, now you’re a weak, small man,
Lying like this,
You, once a prince among all men.

You taught me where to walk, and how to.
But look at death:
I learn of that from you now, too.

Drawing my mask of blankness on,
I thank you for
Life itself; also for this lesson.

The winter wind whistles over;
Towards our crypt
I step a little forward, closer.

Calmly enough I stroll to it,
Since what awaits
Is not a miracle, but this, to wit:

That I am you, you’re there, and I
Believe it now:
At last I know that I shall die.

Father, progenitor, godlike,
What nothingness
You are, and I, how ungodly.


[Translated from the Hungarian by John Ridland and Peter V. Czipott]