Saturday Poem

Questions by the Lake

When, after two years you returned to Solentiname,
already a child of five, Juan,
I remember very well what you said to me:
“You’re the one who’s going to tell me all about God, right?”

And I who all the time
have come to know less about God.
A mystic, that is, a lover of God
called God NOTHING,

and another said: all that you say about God is false.
And if you were to have knowledge of God it was better
perhaps I didn’t talk to you of God.

But once,
I certainly spoke to you of God by the lake,
on the dock,
during a twilight all pink and silver:

“God is one who’s within all of us,
within you, within me, within everywhere.”
“And God is within that heron?” “Yes.” “And within the sardines?”
“Yes.” “And within those clouds?” “Yes.”

“And within that other heron?” “Yes.”
A tiny Adam naming all your small paradise.
“And God is within this dock?” “Yes.” “And within the waves?”
Why do children ask so many questions?

And I
why do I question why
like a child?
“And God is also within my dad and my mom?” “Yes, God is.”

And you told me:
“But God doesn’t get to the island of the bad ones, right?”

Now, 12 years old,
you’re in the Association of Sandinista Children.
You go to the rallies. You take part in voluntary work.
You take watch turns for the revolution. You’re in the militia.
(Now the bad ones have left their island.)

“And God is also within the little stars
the tiny little stars that are so big, right?”
The numbers measuring littleness
are as large as those for bigness.

Where did you come from?
And I was shocked, not only by your questions
but also because I thought that
of three hundred million spermatazoids

it was only you, Juan,
of the three hundred million Juans
distinct from the Juan that you are
but twins of you
it was only you, once.

And like you
three hundred million asked me from their nonexistence
where is God,
telling me I should tell them all about God,

and if God is also within them?
(And with them the whole infinity of nonexistents
infinitely greater than the existent.)
As if all at once I were interrogated
by three hundred million stars that didn’t exist.

Although among all those millions,
within which God also is,
you were the only one, Juan,
the one who questioned me that day by the lake.
The one who one day believed that I would tell him all about God.

by Ernesto Cardenal
Flights of Victory
translated from the Spanish by Marc Zimmerman
Orbis, 1985