The River is a Brown God
By Roberto Drummond
My father is dying in his room.
The room is dark and my father is dying there.
Here in the living room, we are waiting for my father to die in his room.
The doctor said that my father was going to die before eight at night, but it's already past ten at night and my father continues to die inside his room.
In the room where my father is dying stretched out in bed, my mother a white figure seated at its head.
At times my father cries out inside his room.
When my father cries out inside his room, the neighbor girl, who when she passes leaves a trace of happiness in the street and who is seated on the sofa here in the living room, continues looking at me and I feel like singing, but singing is the last thing I should be thinking about now, because my father is dying in his room.
She's morena, pretend thin, maybe she's twenty or at most twenty-three, her eyes are grey and I want to look at her, but I look at the floor, because my father is dying in his room.
She's sitting on the sofa right in front of me and, if my father wasn't dying in his room, I could look at her legs.
I could look at her knees when she crosses her legs.
I could see a bit of her thighs.
I could look at her bare and brown shoulders.
And her mouth, which gives me so much thirst, I could also look at, if my father weren't dying in his room.
Even so, I look at her, even knowing that my father is dying in his room, I look at her.
She lights a cigarette and I like the way that she holds it and that she swallows the smoke and then the smoke comes out of her mouth, but I hear a cry and remember that my father is dying in his room.
Then she looks at me again with her grey eyes and I feel like singing, my father is dying in his room and I feel like singing.
I try to think of my father who is dying in his room.
Never, in all my life, not even when I was a child, has my father embraced me, kissed me, or run his hands through my hair and now my father is dying in his room and the room is dark and he is dying there.
I don't remember having seen my father laugh any time either; he only ventured a slim smile when he heard Alvarenga or Ranchinho singing on the radio. But that's a long time ago, when we still lived in the interior, and now my father is dying in his room and now he can't laugh.
There on the sofa, the neighbor girl crosses her legs, she shouldn't do that, because my father is dying in his room.
I could tell her that my father was always a sad man. I think she would understand, but it wouldn't make sense, in the end, with my father dying in his room.
My mother comes out of the room where my father is dying, stops in front of me, and says that my father is calling for me in the room where he is dying.
Everyone in the living room looks at me and the neighbor girl watches me as well with her grey eyes and, yes, I want to sing, and I go in the room where my father is dying.
I kneel at the head of the bed and my father's hand starts to trace the features of my face in the dark. After, my father weaves his fingers into my hair and says, "My little sonny boy."
My father never called me that and now that my father is dying in his room, he repeats, "Sonny boy."
My father takes my hand and asks if I remember when we hunted wild ducks. I tell him yes and my father laughs and says, "We were happy then, eh?" I say yes, that we were happy, and again my father laughs; he's dying in his room and laughs.
I leave my father dying in his room and return to the living room, and there she is, the neighbor girl with the grey eyes, like a slim flag of happiness; but it's not the time to be happy, and I go up the stairs to the upper level of the house, lie down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow and stay there thinking of my father who is dying in his room.
I hear footsteps climbing the stairs and I think that someone is coming to tell me that my father has just died in his room.
But when I look, I see the neighbor girl with the grey eyes entering; I want to shout, sing, and this hurts because my father is dying in his room.
She sits beside me on the bed and I kiss her that mouth with the really dry lips.
She gets up, closes the door to the room where we are and returns, and I embrace here and kiss her.
I used to compare her to an angel when I'd see her going by in the morning, but now that my father is dying and I've got her in my arms, I suspect that she is a devil come to tempt me.
Naked in the room, she and I make love.
A wind blows a slight breeze across our naked and sweaty bodies. I sense in my mouth the salty taste of her skin and I say that I like it. And she says, "'Salt is in the wild rose.'" She asks, "Do you know your T.S. Eliot?" I say no. She recites:
"I don't know much about gods,/but I believe that the river is a brown god..."
She is in an embrace with me; I feel that she is something of me: my hand, my leg, my mouth, my rib. And a song starts playing inside of me like a fiesta, but I know that it's not the hour for fiestas, because, at the end of the day, my father is dying in his room.
Translated by Peter Vaudry-Brown
QLRS Vol. 7 No. 3 Jul 2008