Keeping Quiet Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. This one time upon the earth, let's not speak any language, let's stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. It would be a delicious moment, without hurry, without locomotives, all of us would be together in a sudden uneasiness. The fishermen in the cold sea would do no harm to the whales and the peasant gathering salt would look at his torn hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars of gas, wars of fire, victories without survivors, would put on clean clothing and would walk alongside their brothers in the shade, without doing a thing. What I want shouldn't be confused with final inactivity: life alone is what matters, I want nothing to do with death. If we weren't unanimous about keeping our lives so much in motion, if we could do nothing for once, perhaps a great silence would interrupt this sadness, this never understanding ourselves and threatening ourselves with death, perhaps the earth is teaching us when everything seems to be dead and then everything is alive. Now I will count to twelve and you keep quiet and I'll go. -from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon Translated by Stephen Mitchell
POETRY And it was at that age...Poetry arrived in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where it came from, from winter or a river. I don't know how or when, no, they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street I was summoned, from the branches of night, abruptly from the others, among violent fires or returning alone, there I was without a face and it touched me. I did not know what to say, my mouth had no way with names my eyes were blind, and something started in my soul, fever or forgotten wings, and I made my own way, deciphering that fire and I wrote the first faint line, faint, without substance, pure nonsense, pure wisdom of someone who knows nothing, and suddenly I saw the heavens unfastened and open, planets, palpitating planations, shadow perforated, riddled with arrows, fire and flowers, the winding night, the universe. And I, infinitesimal being, drunk with the great starry void, likeness, image of mystery, I felt myself a pure part of the abyss, I wheeled with the stars, my heart broke free on the open sky.
In the center of the earth I will push aside the emeralds so that I can see you--- you like an amanuensis, with a pen of water, copying the green sprigs of plants. What a world! What deep parsley! What a ship sailing through the sweetness! And you, maybe---and me, maybe---a topaz. There'll be no more dissensions in the bells. There won't be anything but all the fresh air, apples carried on the wind, the succulent book in the woods: and there where the carnations breathe, we will begin to make ourselves a clothing, something to last through the eternity of a victorious kiss.
You sing, and your voice peels the husk of the day's grain, your song with the sun and sky, the pine trees speak with their green tongue: all the birds of the winter whistle. The sea fills its cellar with footfalls, with bells, chains, whimpers, the tools and the metals jangle, wheels of the caravan creak. But I hear only your voice, your voice soars with the zing and precision of an arrow, it drops with the gravity of rain, your voice scatters the highest swords and returns with its cargo of violets: it accompanies me through the sky.
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's unique style was recognized in 1971 when he won the Nobel prize for Literature. His poems are often passionate odes to love and nature, and he was once noted by the New York Times as "the most influential, and inventive poet of the Spanish language."
I Like For You to be Still I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent, and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you. It seems as though your eyes had flown away and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth. As all things are filled with my soul you emerge from the things, filled with my soul. You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream, and you are like the word Melancholy. I like for you to be still, and you seem far away. It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like a dove. And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach you: Let me come to be still in your silence. And let me talk to you with your silence that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring. You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations. Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid. I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent, distant and full of sorrow as though you had died. One word then, one smile, is enough. And I am happy, happy that it's not true.
Clenched Soul We have lost even this twilight. No one saw us this evening hand in hand while the blue night dropped on the world. I have seen from my window the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops. Sometimes a piece of sun burned like a coin in my hand. I remembered you with my soul clenched in that sadness of mine that you know. Where were you then? Who else was there? Saying what? Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly when I am sad and feel you are far away? The book fell that always closed at twilight and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet. Always, always you recede through the evenings toward the twilight erasing statues.
List of Poems * Also In Spanish
You will remember that leaping stream where sweet aromas rose and trembled, and sometimes a bird, wearing water and slowness, its winter feathers. You will remember those gifts from the earth: indelible scents, gold clay, weeds in the thicket and crazy roots, magical thorns like swords. You'll remember the bouquet you picked, shadows and silent water, bouquet like a foam-covered stone. That time was like never, and like always. So we go there, where nothing is waiting; we find everything waiting there.
Too Many Names Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays and the week with the whole year. Time cannot be cut with your weary scissors, and all the names of the day are washed out by the waters of night. No one can claim the name of Pedro, nobody is Rosa or Maria, all of us are dust or sand, all of us are rain under rain. They have spoken to me of Venezuelas, of Chiles and of Paraguays; I have no idea what they are saying. I know only the skin of the earth and I know it is without a name. When I lived amongst the roots they pleased me more than flowers did, and when I spoke to a stone it rang like a bell. It is so long, the spring which goes on all winter. Time lost its shoes. A year is four centuries. When I sleep every night, what am I called or not called? And when I wake, who am I if I was not while I slept? This means to say that scarcely have we landed into life than we come as if new-born; let us not fill our mouths with so many faltering names, with so many sad formallities, with so many pompous letters, with so much of yours and mine, with so much of signing of papers. I have a mind to confuse things, unite them, bring them to birth, mix them up, undress them, until the light of the world has the oneness of the ocean, a generous, vast wholeness, a crepitant fragrance.
Past We have to discard the past and, as one builds floor by floor, window by window, and the building rises, so do we go on throwing down first, broken tiles, then pompous doors, until out of the past dust rises as if to crash against the floor, smoke rises as if to catch fire, and each new day it gleams like an empty plate. There is nothing, there is always nothing. It has to be filled with a new, fruitful space, then downward tumbles yesterday as in a well falls yesterday's water, into the cistern of all still without voice or fire. It is difficult to teach bones to disappear, to teach eyes to close but we do it unrealizing. It was all alive, alive, alive, alive like a scarlet fish but time passed over its dark cloth and the flash of the fish drowned and disappeared. Water water water the past goes on falling still a tangle of bones and of roots; it has been, it has been, and now memories mean nothing. Now the heavy eyelid covers the light of the eye and what was once living now no longer lives; what we were, we are not. And with words, although the letters still have transparency and sound, they change, and the mouth changes; the same mouth is now another mouth; they change, lips, skin, circulation; another being has occupied our skeleton; what once was in us now is not. It has gone, but if the call, we reply; "I am here," knowing we are not, that what once was, was and is lost, is lost in the past, and now will not return.
Poet's Obligation To whoever is not listening to the sea this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up in house or office, factory or woman or street or mine or harsh prison cell: to him I come, and, without speaking or looking, I arrive and open the door of his prison, and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent, a great fragment of thunder sets in motion the rumble of the planet and the foam, the raucous rivers of the ocean flood, the star vibrates swiftly in its corona, and the sea is beating, dying and continuing. So, drawn on by my destiny, I ceaselessly must listen to and keep the sea's lamenting in my awareness, I must feel the crash of the hard water and gather it up in a perpetual cup so that, wherever those in prison may be, wherever they suffer the autumn's castigation, I may be there with an errant wave, I may move, passing through windows, and hearing me, eyes will glance upward saying "How can I reach the sea?" And I shall broadcast, saying nothing, the starry echoes of the wave, a breaking up of foam and of quicksand, a rustling of salt withdrawing, the grey cry of sea-birds on the coast. So, through me, freedom and the sea will make their answer to the shuttered heart.
Ode To Enchanted Light Under the trees light has dropped from the top of the sky, light like a green latticework of branches, shining on every leaf, drifting down like clean white sand. A cicada sends its sawing song high into the empty air. The world is a glass overflowing with water.
Lost in the Forest Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips: maybe it was the voice of the rain crying, a cracked bell, or a torn heart. Something from far off it seemed deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth, a shout muffled by huge autumns, by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves. Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance climbed up through my conscious mind as if suddenly the roots I had left behind cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood--- and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.