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The Final Toast (Poem by Nicanor Parra)

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Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval, Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist passed away on January 23, 2018. Parra used to describe himself as an “anti-poet”. He passed away at the age of 103. Here is one of his greatest poems Último brindis. The poem was translated from Spanish into English by David Unger as The Final Toast. The poem is taken from an article Unger wrote for The Paris Review.The translator describes the poem as a cynical mathematical poem that exemplifies Parra’s anti-poetry philosophy.

The Final Toast

Like it or not
We’re given only three choices:
The past, the present and the future.

And not even three
For the philosopher tells us
The past has passed
It’s ours only in memory:
From the rose stripped of her petals
Another petal can’t be drawn.

There are only two cards
In the deck:
The present and the future.

And not even two
Because everyone knows
That the present doesn’t exist
But in the way it becomes the past
And that’s passed…
Like youth.

To make a long story short
We’re being left only with the future:
I make a toast
For that day which never comes
But is the only thing
Really left in our control.

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