The Return

Claudia Masin

Based on the film Vozvraschenie (The Return) by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2003.

What does the father bring home from his long journey through countries
wide and flat as the halls in hospitals where he,
a weary old doctor, lets his placid gaze, his expert gaze, drift
across all things of this world as though they were his own?
As though he held them in his hand long enough
to know their exact concavities and features.
For him nothing is new. But what about us?
Asking ourselves the how and the why, released like stars,
shooting away from the generous safekeeping of the sky, how can we
look at things without sorrow, without something forever
extra or missing: Maybe with restraint? Without that, it’s
impossible not to stumble over every step.
—Which love swooped down on him, only to let him go?
A raptor who showed sudden mercy
and discarded the remains offered to it
with the generosity of its full stomach. Is it finished?
But what about us, whose bones are covered in those remains?
We can’t ask. The leftover is lost already,
the excess.
So Mother, why not let me go out and walk the roads?
If he brought nothing back in his arms, why not let me
go out searching? If the gift he hides
so cautiously under the bed is an empty box?
What will happen to us now,
if it is and always was a lie that he was lifting marvelous
objects out of trunks, could teach you to reel in fish
whose fins sparkled like a coin in sunshine? If it’s another lie
that he could scrape charcoal against his chest and make fire
to light up the earth’s curve, the perfect geometry of the house,
or that by merely looking at our little bodies
he made them vigorous as parasitic plants, satisfied
with the sap from another plant? Give me liberty
to drop this chain linked to nothing,
I already know anyway: There is a heaven
like there’s an earth, there’s some kind of disorder looking out for us
there’s someone who unleashes an epidemic and sometimes there’s a cure,
               there are
mornings where we’ll be children once more, just once, so we can walk around
holding his hand, the hand of the fabric drying in the sun
on nice days, the clothing left by a dead man, don’t lie to me.
There was no father and there never will be.

translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra