Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín

 

Poems by Pablo Neruda



 

Verb

I’m going to wrinkle this word,
I’m going to twist it,
yes,
it is much too flat
it is as if a great dog or great river
had passed its tongue or water over it
during many years.

I want that in the word
the roughness is seen
the iron salt
The de-fanged strength
of the land,
the blood
of those who have spoken and those who have not spoken.

I want to see the thirst
Inside the syllables
I want to touch the fire
in the sound:
I want to feel the darkness
of the cry. I want
words as rough
as virgin rocks.

Translated by T.M. Lauth

 

The dictators

An odor has remained among the sugarcane:
a mixture of blood and body, a penetrating
petal that brings nausea.
Between the coconut palms the graves are full
of ruined bones, of speechless death-rattles.
The delicate dictator is talking
with top hats, gold braid, and collars.
The tiny palace gleams like a watch
and the rapid laughs with gloves on
cross the corridors at times
and join the dead voices
and the blue mouths freshly buried.
The weeping cannot be seen, like a plant
whose seeds fall endlessly on the earth,
whose large blind leaves grow even without light.
Hatred has grown scale on scale,
blow on blow, in the ghastly water of the swamp,
with a snout full of ooze and silence.

 

Ode to a lemon

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
essences,
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree's yellow
emerges,
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
The harbors are big with it-
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
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
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
altars,
aromatic facades.

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 

The people paraded their red flags...

The people paraded their red flags
and I was among them on the stone
they struck, in the thunderous march
and in the struggle's lofty songs,
I saw how they conquered step by step,
Their resistance alone was road,
and isolated they were like broken bits
of a star, mouthless and lusterless.
Joined in the unity made silence,
they were fire, indestructible song,
the slow passage of mankind on earth
turned into depths and battles.
They were dignity that fought
whatever was trampled, and they awakened
like a system, the order of lives
that touched the door and sat down
in the main hall with their flags.

 

Being born in the woods

When the rice withdraws from the earth
the grains of its flour,
when the wheat hardens its little hip-joints
and lifts its face of a thousand hands,
I make my way to the grove where the woman and the man embrace,
to touch the innumerable sea
of what continues.

I am not a brother of the implement carried on the tide
as in a cradle of embattled mother-of-pearl:
I do not tremble in the territory of the dying garbage,
I do not wake at the shock of the dark
that is frightened by the hoarse leaf-stalks of the sudden bell,
I cannot be, I am not the traveller
under whose shoes the last remnants of the wind throb
and the waves come back rigid out of time to die.

I carry in my hand the dove that sleeps recumbent in the seed
and in its dense ferment of lime and blood
August lives,
raised out of its deep goblet the month lives:
with my hand I encircle the new shadow of the wing that is growing:
the root and the feather that will form the thicket of tomorrow.

The immense growth of the drop, and the eyelid yearning to be open
never diminish, neither beside the balcony of iron hands

nor in the maritime winter of the abandoned, nor in my late footstep:
for I was born in order to be born, to contain the steps
of all that approaches, of all that beats on my breast like a new trembling heart.

Lives resting beside my clothes like parallel doves
or contained in my own existence and in my lawless sound
in order to return to being, to lay hold on the air denuded of its leaf
and on the moist birth of the soil in the wreath: how long
can I return and be, how long can the odour
of the most deeply buried flowers, of the waves most finely
pulverized on the high rocks, preserve in me their homeland
where they can return to be fury and perfume?

TranslatedbyW.S.Merwin

 

The poet

That time when I moved among happenings
in the midst of my mournful devotions; that time
when I cherished a leaflet of quartz,
and stared at a lifetime's vocation.

I ranged in the markets of avarice
where goodness is bought for a price, breathed
the insensate miasmas of envy, the inhuman
contention of masks and existences.

I endured in the bog-dweller's element; the lily
that breaks on the water in a sudden
disturbance of bubbles and blossoms, devoured me.
Whatever the foot sought, the spirit deflected,
or sheered toward the fang of the pit.

So my poems took beina, in travail
retrieved from the thorn, like a penance,
wrenched by a seizure of hands, out of solitude;
or they parted for burial
their secretest flower in immodesty's garden.

Estranged to myself, like shadow on water
that moves through a corridor's fathoms,
I sped through the exile of each man's existence,
this way and that, and so, to habitual loathing;
for I saw that their being was this: to stifle
one half of existence's fullness like fish
in an alien limit of ocean. And there,
in immensity's mire, I encountered their death;

Death grazing the barriers,
Death opening roadways and doorways.

Translated by Ben Belitt

 

October 17th, 2012

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