Discovering Neruda

In the bookstore with endless possibilities, I found a gorgeous, old copy of Neruda’s poems, complete with a lovely note from ’76 inside. What strikes me most about his poetry is the blend of emotions and the marvellous imagery. The introduction is also pretty spectacular in this edition.

“On the edge of the final silence, Neruda writes his own best epitaph, the epitaph of an ‘animal of light’ who has exhausted all that can be said in words:

And today in the depth of the lost forest
He hears the sound of the enemy and runs away
Not from the others but from himself
From that interminable conversation
From the chorus which always accompanied us
And from the meaning of life

Because this once, because just once, because
A syllable or an interval of silence
Or the unstifled noise of a wave
Leave me face to face with the truth
And there is nothing more to interpret,
Nothing more to say; this was everything.
Closed were the forest doors.
The sun goes round opening up the leaves
The moon appears like a white fruit
And man bows to his destiny.”

I have been struggling with a lot lately. I went to the store with a mission to find poetry. Poetry comforts and heals. It is a balm for the pain and a medicine for the wounds. Neruda moves so swiftly between the personal, political and for some reason the sea.

Pact (Sonata)

Pablo Neruda

By now sometimes it is not possible
To win except by falling
By now it is bit possible to tremble between
Two beings, to touch the flower of the river:
Fibres of man come like needles
Procedures, fragments,
Families of repulsive coral, torments
And hard steps for winter
Carpets.

Between lips and lips there are cities
Of great ash and moist summit,
Drops of when and how, vague
Comings and goings:
Between lips and lips as along a shore
Of sand and glass the wind passes.

Therefore you are endless; gather me as though you were
All solemnity, all made of night
Like a zone, until you are indistinguishable
From the lines of time.

Advance into sweetness
Come to my side until the fingery
Leaves of the violin
Have gone silent, until the mosses
Take root in the thunder, until from the pulse
Of hand and hand the roots descend.

Some of the poems even have small notes from him. My favourite one has to be:

This poem was written in 1934. How much has happened since then! Spain, where I wrote it, is a belt of ruins. Ah! if we could only placate the world’s rage with a drop of poetry or of love – but only the struggle and the daring heart are capable of that.

The world and my poetry have both changed. A drop of blood fallen on these lines will remain alive within them, as indelible as love.

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In between words and intimacies

If these were the last words you say to me

would they be words

of endearment

of passion

of hatred

of anger

of betrayal

or

of disappointment

Would you spend hours thinking about our time together

days hours minutes seconds

of madness

of love

of partnership

of fights

or

of drug induced escapes

Would you phrase it with precision and craftswoman-ship

Or would you blurt out

the obvious redundancies

I am tired of listening to

I would spend hours thinking it through

place special importance on the way

your taste             your smell               your quick deep breaths

lingered in my memory.

What would you do?

362 of 365

What a shame!

I felt things I shouldn’t. With you not here.

I said things I wouldn’t. With you unaware.

I did things I couldn’t. With you elsewhere.

You were not around to see. For you had left a lot before me.

I pulled a skull from the cupboard and cleaned it up.

I pretended it was you when I was lonely.

Heart out, lips sealed, I offered you some cake.

A cold silence followed.

For you had left before you finished dessert.

This was the cake you never ate.

351 of 365

I freeze in my tracks to stare at the number.

I didn’t want to see that jet black car

Driving past me.

Not yet.

You consumed my every thought.

A phase?

A loss I couldn’t swallow?

A life without your embrace?

I took a deep breath and shook my head;

It was a hallucination of your familiar silhouette

approaching me.

No, it wasn’t you.

350 of 365

There is this emotion

that envelopes like

I have never known.

A feeling so enchanting

that each moment

would feel like home.

I couldn’t imagine how I knew

for its a something

I have never called my own.

A part of me

fell through the cracks.

But to survive on the other side.

It was this same feeling.

The one popularly called

Love.