brief lives…

The People's Poet

Ain’t life strange? It’s course can forever change in an instant: an insignificant thought; careless glance; poor decision; missed shot; a single percentage point. Destiny swings in the balance and sadly, sometimes, that’s all it takes to tip. Everything changes… Not sure how many we’re designed to take before we topple. And the heavier the weight, the harder the fall…

Not sure how that brings me to another of my favourite poets, but it does. I fell for Pablo Neruda in France, during my ‘gap year’ overseas. Tortuously in and out of love, my bibliophile father handed me Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – he understood my pain: I was red-spot, signed-on-the-dotted-line sold.

For a quick background on the man (and romantic flick guaranteed to have your chick in ecstatic spasms of excitement over your newly poetic soul, ditto the soundtrack) watch ‘Il Postino‘. Chilean born poet-politician, ‘Pablo Neruda’ was actually a ‘pen’ name he later adopted and legalized. After a lengthy exile, he was nominated as a presidential candidate in 1970 and won a Nobel prize for literature the following year (I have good taste in poets, musicans, food, wine and…err, cats). Matilde Urrutia, his ‘wild girl’ muse and 3rd wife inspired anthologies such as 100 Love Sonnets and The Captain’s Verses (!). The followng poem comes from Residence on Earth and kinda summaries the way I feel tonight…

Melancholy Inside Families

I keep a blue bottle.
Inside it an ear and a portrait.
When the night dominates
the feathers of the owl,
when the hoarse cherry tree
rips out its lips and makes menacing gestures
with rinds which the ocean wind often perforates —
then I know that there are immense expanses hidden from us,
quartz in slugs,
blue waters for a battle,
much silence, many ore-veins
of withdrawals and camphor,
fallen things, medallions, kindnesses,
parachutes, kisses.

It is only the passage from one day to another,
a single bottle moving over the seas,
and a dining room where roses arrive,
a dining room deserted
as a fish bone; I am speaking of
a smashed cup, a curtain, at the end
of a deserted room through which a river passes
dragging along the stones. It is a house
set on the foundations of the rain,
a house of two rooms with the required number of windows,
and climbing vines faithful in every particular.

I walk through afternoons, I arrive
full of mud and death,
dragging along the earth and its roots,
and its indistinct stomach in which corpses
are sleeping with wheat,
metals, and pushed-over elephants.

But above all there is a terrifying,
a terrifying deserted dining room,
with its broken olive cruets,
and vinegar running under its chairs,
one ray of moonlight tied down,
something dark, and I look
for a companion inside myself:
perhaps it is a grocery store surrounded by the sea
and torn clothing from which sea water is dripping.

It is only a deserted dining room,
and around it there are expanses,
sunken factories, pieces of timber
which I alone know,
because I am sad, and because I travel,
and I know the earth, and I am sad.

(Translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly and James Wright

parachutes, kisses...

One response to “brief lives…

  1. Pingback: write, why..? | scarlet * nguni·

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