Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Poem for Today

Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems

Neruda and Vallejo: 
Selected Poems 
by Pablo Neruda







I Wish the Woodcutter Would Wake Up


West of the Colorado River 
there's a place I love. 
I take refuge there with everything alive 
in me, with everything 
that I have been, that I am, that I believe in.
Some high red rocks are there, the wild 
air with its thousand hands 
has turned them into human buildings. 
The blind scarlet rose from the depths
and changed in these rocks to copper, fire, and energy. 
America spread out like a buffalo skin, 
light and transparent night of galloping, 
near your high places covered with stars 
I drink down your cup of green dew.
Yes, through acrid Arizona and Wisconsin full of knots, 
as far as Milwaukee, raised to keep back the wind and the 
       snow 
or in the burning swamps of West Palm, 
near the pine trees of Tacoma, in the thick odor 
of your forests which is like steel, 
I walked weighing down the mother earth, 
blue leaves, waterfalls of stones, 
hurricanes vibrating as all music does, 
rivers that muttered prayers like monasteries, 
geese and apples, territories and waters, 
infinite silence in which the wheat could be born.
I was able there, in my deep stony core, to stretch my
     eyes, ears, hands,
far out into the air until I heard
books, locomotives, snow, battles, 
factories, cemeteries, footsteps, plants, 
and the moon on a ship from Manhattan, 
the song of the machine that is weaving, 
the iron spoon that eats the earth, 
the drill that strikes like a condor, 
and everything that cuts, presses, sews: 
creatures and wheels repeating themselves and being 
     born.
I love the farmer's small house. New mothers are asleep 
with a good smell like the sap of the tamarind, clothes 
just ironed. Fires are burning in a thousand homes, 
with drying onions hanging around the fireplace. 
(When they are singing near the river the men's voices 
are deep as the stones at the river bottom; 
and tobacco rose from its wide leaves
and entered these houses like a spirit of the fire.) 
Come deeper into Missouri, look at the cheese and the 
     flour, 
the boards aromatic and red as violins, 
the man moving like a ship among the barley, 
the blue-black colt just home from a ride smells 
the odor of bread and alfalfa: 
bells, poppies, blacksmith shops, 
and in the rundown movies in the small towns 
love opens its mouth full of teeth 
in a dream born of the earth. 
What we love is your peace, not your mask. 
Your warrior's face is not handsome. 
North America, you are handsome and spacious. 
You come, like a washerwoman, from 
a simple cradle, near your rivers, pale. 
Built up from the unknown, 
what is sweet in you is your hivelike peace.
We love the man with his hands red 
from the Oregon clay, your Negro boy 
who brought you the music born 
in his country of tusks: we love 
your city, your substance, 
your light, your machines, the energy 
of the West, the harmless 
honey from hives and little towns, 
the huge farmboy on his tractor, 
the oats which you inherited 
from Jefferson, the noisy wheel 
that measures your oceanic earth, 
the factory smoke and the kiss, 
the thousandth, of a new colony: 
what we love is your workingman's blood: 
your unpretentious hand covered with oil.
For years now under the prairie night 
in a heavy silence on the buffalo skin 
syllables have been asleep, poems 
about what I was before I was born, what we were. 
Melville is a sea fir, the curve of the keel 
springs from his branches, an arm 
of timber and ship. Whitman impossible to count 
as grain, Poe in his mathematical 
darkness, Dreiser, Wolfe, 
fresh wounds of our own absence, 
Lockridge more recently, all bound to the depths, 
how many others, bound to the darkness: 
over them the same dawn of the hemisphere burns, 
and out of them what we are has come. 
Powerful foot soldiers, blind captains, 
frightened at times among actions and leaves,
checked in their work by joy and by mourning, 
under the plains crossed by traffic, 
how many dead men in the fields never visited before: 
innocent ones tortured, prophets only now published, 
on the buffalo skin of the prairies.
From France, and Okinawa, and the atolls 
of Leyte (Norman Mailer has written it out) 
and the infuriated air and the waves, 
almost all the men have come back now, 
almost all . . . The history of mud and sweat 
was green and sour; they did not hear 
the singing of the reefs long enough 
and perhaps never touched the islands, those wreaths of 
     brilliance and perfume, 
except to die: 
                    dung and blood 
hounded them, the filth and the rats, 
and a fatigued and ruined heart that went on fighting. 
But they have come back,
                                         you have received them 
into the immensity of the open lands 
and they have closed (those who came back) like a flower 
with thousands of nameless petals 
to be reborn and forget.


NERUDA AND VALLEJO: SELECTED POEMS edited and translated by Robert Bly, Beacon Press, 1971. Copyright 1971 by Robert Bly.

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1 comment:

Parrish Lantern said...

I enjoyed that. Have a great new year