Father, even if you weren't my father,

were you an utter stranger,
for your own self I'd love you.
Remembering how you saw, one winter morning,
the first violet on the wall across the way,
and with what joy you shared the revelation;
then, hoisting the ladder to your shoulder,
out you went and propped it to the wall.
We, your children, stood watching at the window.

And I remember how, another time,
you chased my little sister through the house
(pigheadedly, she'd done I know not what).
But when she, run to earth, shrieked out in fear,
your heart misgave you,
for you saw yourself hunt down your helpless child.
Relenting then, you took her in your arms
in all her terror: caressing her, enclosed in your embrace
as in some shelter from that brute
who'd beep, one moment since, yourself.

Father, even were you not my father,
were you some utter stranger,
for your innocence, your artless tender heart
I would above all other men
so love you.
(Translated by Shirley Hazzard.)

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