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by Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda

translated from the Spanish by Gary Emmons

It’s no longer good form to air out your conscience,
to be a good liberal, aflutter
with terrible contradictions that alter your digestion or
your soul.
We must wake up to the passion in things,
to the subversion in every poem,
the moment of grace when we become free
of loathing for those who write.
And though they say
that ignorance is bliss,
a joyous race against the wind
to surprise it from behind,
these are the lies of metaphors
already on the verge of collapse.
Anemic and slightly debased,
young men put on ties and go to work
in banks,
but who among us has not lost his relative chastity
by greeting one he detests,
or smiling at a joke he considers susceptible
to improvement?
Good-bye is yet another bond,
but the overriding necessity remains
to submerge yourself in harsh cruelty, reality’s guarantee,
for the only answer is there, in the very misery that afflicts you.
Remember you must hurry, there’s no time to lose—
not even by yourself are you well-received.


Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda is chief of publications for Colcultura, the cultural agency of the Colombian government. (1991)

Gary Emmons lived in Columbia and taught American literature at a university in Bogota. He is an editor at the Harvard Business School Bulletin. (1991)

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