The Tablets 

by Nicanor Parra


I dreamed I was in a desert I was sick of myself
And I started beating a woman.
It was devilish cold, I had to do something,
To shoot someone, take a little exercise;
I had a headache, I was tired,
All I wanted to do was sleep, die.
My shirt drenched with blood
And between my toes were hairs—
The hair of my poor mother—
“Why do you hurt your mother,” a stone asked,
A stone covered with dust, “Why do you abuse that woman?”
I couldn’t tell where these voices came from, they gave me the shivers,
I looked at my nails, I bit them,
I tried to think of something but without success,
All I saw around me was a desert
And the image of that idol
My god who watched me do these things.
Then came a few birds.
And at the same moment, in the dark, I discovered some slabs of rock.
With a supreme effort I managed to make out the tablets of the law:
“We are the tablets of the law,” they said,
“Why do you abuse your mother?”
“You see those birds that have come to perch on us”
“They are here to record your crimes.”
I yawn, I am bored with these admonitions.
“Get rid of those birds,” I said aloud.
“No,” replied a stone,
“They represent your different sins,”
“They are there to look”
So I turned back again to my lady
And started to let her have it harder than before.
I had to do something to keep awake.
I was under obligation to act
Or I would have fallen asleep among those rocks
And those birds.
So I took a box of matches out of one of my pockets
And decided to set fire to the bust of the god.
I was dreadfully cold, I had to get warm,
But that blaze only lasted a few seconds.
In desperation, I looked for the tablets again
But they were gone:
and the rocks, the rocks were gone.
My mother had abandoned me.
I beat my brow. But
There was nothing more I could do.

Translated by Mariela Griffor

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