Chilean Poet and Diplomat, Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
Pablo Neruda, pen name for Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto
Chilean Poet and Diplomat, Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
Keeping Quite - Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; let's stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive. Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.
One time, investigating in the backyard of our house in Temuco the tiny objects and minuscule beings of my world, I came upon a hole in one of the boards of the fence. I looked through the hole and saw a landscape like that behind our house, uncared for, and wild. I moved back a few steps, because I sensed vaguely that something was about to happen. All of a sudden a hand appeared ? a tiny hand of a boy about my own age. By the time I came close again, the hand was gone, and in its place there was a marvelous white sheep. The sheep?s wool was faded. Its wheels had escaped. All of this only made it more authentic. I had never seen such a wonderful sheep. I looked back through the hole, but the boy had disappeared. I went into the house and brought out a treasure of my own: a pinecone, opened, full of odor and resin, which I adored. I set it down in the same spot and went off with the sheep.
To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses ? that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things. That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all of humanity is somehow together... It won?t surprise you then that I attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood. Just as I once left the pinecone by the fence, I have since left my words on the door of so many people who were unknown to me, people in prison, or hunted, or alone. This exchange of gifts ? mysterious ? settled deep inside me like a sedimentary deposit.
This flesh and the other will be consumed, the flower will doubtless perish without residue, when death--sterile dawn, desiccated dust-- comes one day into the girdle of the haughty island, and you, statue, laughter of man, will remain gazing with the empty eyes that rose up through one and another hand of the absent immortals.
We continued till we came to a natural tunnel which perhaps had been bored through the imposing rocks by some mighty vanished river or created by some tremor of the earth when these heights had been formed, a channel that we entered where it had been carved out in the rock in granite. After only a few steps our horses began to slip when they sought for a foothold in the uneven surfaces of the stone and their legs were bent, sparks flying from beneath their iron shoes - several times I expected to find myself thrown off and lying there on the rock. My horse was bleeding from its muzzle and from its legs, but we persevered and continued on the long and difficult but magnificent path.
Where is the child I was, still inside me or gone? Know that not ever wanted And that did not want me? Do we ride so long we grew apart? Do not we die too when my child died? And if the soul fell me why I keep the skeleton?
Woman, I would Have Been your child, to drink the milk of your breasts as from a well, to see and feel you at my side and have you in your laughter and your gold crystal voice. To feel you in my veins like God in the rivers and adore you in the sorrowful bones of dust and lime, to watch you passing painlessly by to emerge in the stanza-cleansed of all evil. How I would love you woman, how I would love you, love you as no one ever did and still die. Love you more and still love you more and more.
You swallowed everything, like distance, like the sea, like time ... That was my destiny and I travel in my longing, and in my desire, in you everything sank!
This is as long as the person? Thousand years or one? Lives in a week or a few centuries? Dies how long? What is the meaning of eternity?
We had to cross a river. Up on the Andean summits there run small streams which cast themselves down with dizzy and insane force, forming waterfalls that stir up earth and stones with the violence they bring with them from the heights. But this time we found calm water, a wide mirrorlike expanse which could be forded. The horses splashed in, lost their foothold and began to swim towards the other bank. Soon my horse was almost completely covered by the water, I began to plunge up and down without support, my feet fighting desperately while the horse struggled to keep its head above water. Then we got across. And hardly we reached the further bank when the seasoned country folk with me asked me with scarce-concealed smiles:
Where things go sleep? They are the dream of others?
Wondering why his poetry speaks of dreams not of the leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets, come and see the blood in the streets, come and see the blood in the streets!
You undermine the horizon with your absence. Eternally in flight like the wave.
This is what I am, I'll say, to leave this written excuse. This is my life. Now it is clear this couldn't be done- that in this net it's not just the strings that count but the air that escapes through the meshes. Everything else stayed out of reach- time running like a hare across the February dew, and love, best not to talk of love which moved, a swaying of hips, leaving no more trace of all its fire than a spoonful of ash. That's how it is with so many passing things: the man who waited, believing, of course, the woman who was alive and will not be. All of them believed that, having teeth, feet, hands, and language, life was only a matter of honor. This one took a look at history, took in all the victories of the past, assumed an everlasting existence, and the only thing life gave him was his death, time not to be alive, and earth to bury him in the end. But all that was born with as many eyes as there are planets in the firmament, and all her devouring fire ruthlessly devoured her until the end. If I remember anything in my life, it was an afternoon in India, on the banks of a river. They were burning a woman of flesh and bone and I didn't know if what came from the sarcophagus was soul or smoke, until there was neither woman nor fire nor coffin nor ash. It was late, and only the night, the water, the river, the darkness lived on in that death.
We have inherited this damaged life of peoples dragging behind them the burden of the condemnation of centuries, the most paradisiacal of peoples, the purest, those who with stones and metals made marvelous towers, jewels of dazzling brilliance - peoples who were suddenly despoiled and silenced in the fearful epochs of colonialism which still linger on.
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?
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom where my dog waits for my arrival waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
You will ask why his poetry speak of dreams not of the leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets, come and see the blood in the streets, come and see the blood by streets!
This time is difficult, wait for me: we will live it out vividly. Give me your small hand: we will rise and suffer, we will feel and rejoice. We are once more the pair who lived in bristling places, in harsh nests in the rock. This time is difficult, wait for me with a basket, with a shovel, with your shoes and your clothes. Now we need each other not only for the carnations' sake, not only to look for honey: we need our hands to wash with and to make fire, and so let our difficult time stand up to infinity with four hands and four eyes.
We have to discard the past and, as one builds floor by floor, window by window, and the building rises, so do we keep shedding -- first, broken tiles, then proud doors, until, from the past, dust falls as if it would crash against the floor, smoke rises as if it were on fire, and each new day gleams like an empty plate. There is nothing, there was always nothing. It all has to be filled with a new, expanding fruitfulness; then, down falls yesterday as in a well falls yesterday's water, into the cistern of all that is now without a voice, without fire. It is difficult to get bones used to disappearing, to teach eyes to close, but we do it unwittingly. Everything was alive, alive, alive, alive like a scarlet fish, but time passed with cloth and darkness and kept wiping away the flash of the fish. Water water water, the past goes on falling although it keeps a grip on thorns and on roots. It went, it went, and now memories mean nothing. Now the heavy eyelid shut out the light of the eye and what was once alive is now no longer living; 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 soul took on our skeleton; what once was in us now is not. It left, but if they call, we reply I am here, and we realize we are not, that what was once, was and is lost, lost in the past, and now does not come back.
While I'm writing, I'm far away; and when I come back, I've gone.
You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs? and the poppy-petalled metaphysics? and the rain repeatedly spattering its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds.
You will ask: And where are the lilacs? And the metaphysical blanket of poppies? And the rain that often struck your words filling them with holes and birds?
To harden the earth the rocks took charge: instantly they grew wings: the rocks that soared: the survivors flew up the lightning bolt, screamed in the night, a watermark, a violet sword, a meteor. The succulent sky had not only clouds, not only space smelling of oxygen, but an earthly stone flashing here and there changed into a dove, changed into a bell, into immensity, into a piercing wind: into a phosphorescent arrow, into salt of the sky.
We open the halves of a miracle, and a clotting of acids brims into the starry divisions: creation's original juices, irreducible, changeless, alive: so the freshness lives on.