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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I stood in the middle of the square in the centre of town. I stared at the world whiz past me. Cars, bikes, people, birds, buses, dogs all continued their lives.

It took a while to sink in that I was nothing but a speck in the world. To tonnes of people around I didn’t exist or matter. I decorated just their backgrounds. Photos could be clicked at that moment and I would only be a passer-by in their memory. A blur in some and insignificant to others.

The realisation was not saddening but relief inducing. I watched the world continue to be even as I stood transfixed in my thoughts, in my selfishness. A weight lifted. A shadow emerged.

I could just be. Without any responsibility.

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Scene 1

“This fight is the noble sacrifice we have made.”

The country glued to their television sets watched with bated breath. Many countrymen nodded in approval. Others cheered him on. It was a war but a noble, unselfish one. It would restore safety. It would not kill. It would not even hurt. It would set people free from their self-destructive behavior. You know like all wars propose to do.

“But this one is different. War against terror. War against ignorance. War for development. War for peace.”

He had to justify, defend his choice. The choice he made on behalf of a nation watching his every move. The choice, he so boldly, made for a world scrutinising him.

I didn’t have the heart to pull my 5-year-old away from the television to tell him it was all lies. So I merely changed the channel to a cartoon show.

Scene 2

BBC aired the proceedings of the high profile domestic murder case. The accused had shot his wife and four children; he pleaded guilty and insanity. But the media trial had sentenced him to death. The actual court was yet to give its verdict. 

I sat in my comfortable couch and bit my fingers.

“This is the only way to end violence.”

I remained unconvinced as I saw the accused’s eyes dart quickly from one jury member to the next. He knew his sentence. His eyes gave him away. It was just time before he paid for his crime. The minutes ticked away.

“He will be publicly executed to deter any others from making the same choices.”

A thunderous applause followed as the court room erupted in cheers. The public had won.

The man was escorted for his beheading which would be aired on prime time television. My 5-year-old watched confused. I changed the channel again, afraid he will be scarred for life.

The world continued to spin, day after day after day.

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The world is broken,

but we can fix it,

Together, you and I.

 

We can dream of an equal world,

We can build an ideal world,

together, you and I.

 

Everything we do, we do right,

every injustice we see, we fight,

Together, you and I.

 

We can try, and try,

Together,

you and I.

 

Don’t give up,

Don’t give up the fight.

Not tonight.

 

We can make the world better,

if we work together,

together, you and I.

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Sometimes I imagine falling off the planet for a few hours maybe even a few days. When I come back will the world still be the same? Will the absence from the constant hammering and indecency make the reality easier to deal with? Or worse?

For the world doesn’t know I exist; it is my life that is bound to be affected.

What if I went missing for a few years? Would I be able to survive the trauma of the return? There are parallel and extra terrestrial universes out there. I suppose. I could live in one for several years and no one would notice. But would I return? If yes because I miss the connection? Or would I return because I have a duty to fulfill?

For the world doesn’t know I exist; it is my life that is bound to shake.

It feels like the generation of a crisis from growing helplessness while looking at the state of the world. A crisis created by the terror brewing in my mind. Or is the world around us truly engulfed in chaos? Mindless misplaced acts of hatred all around. I presume.

Where are we headed? Or were we always here?