We are many – Pablo Neruda

Of the many men who I am, who we are,
I can’t find a single;
they disappear among my clothes,
they’ve left for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as intelligent,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.

At other times, I’m asleep
among distinguished people,
and when I look for my brave self,
a coward unknown to me
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine excuses.

When a decent house catches fire,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and that’s me. What can I do?
What can I do to distinguish myself?
How can I pull myself together?

All the books I read
are full of dazzling heroes,
always sure of themselves,
I die with envy of them;
and in films full of wind and bullets,
I goggle at the cowboys,
I even admire the horses.

But when I call for a hero,
out comes my lazy old self;
so I never know who I am,
nor how many I am or will be.
I’d love to be able to touch a bell
and summon the real me,
because if I really need myself,
I mustn’t disappear.

While I am writing, I’m far away;
and when I come back, I’ve gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly;
and when I’ve exhausted this problem,
I’m going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I’ll be talking geography.

– Pablo Neruda ( Muchos somos/We are many)
From Extravagaria
translated by Alastair Reid

neruda

 

The People

 

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The People 
I recall that man and not two centuries
have passed since I saw him,
he went neither by horse nor by carriage:
purely on foot
he outstripped
distances,
and carried no sword or armour,
only nets on his shoulder,
axe or hammer or spade,
never fighting the rest of his species:
his exploits were with water and earth,
with wheat so that it turned into bread,
with giant trees to render them wood,
with walls to open up doors,
with sand to construct the walls,
and with ocean for it to bear.

I knew him and he is still not cancelled in me.

The carriages fell to pieces,
war destroyed doors and walls,
the city was a handful of ashes,
all the clothes turned to dust,
and he remains to me,
he survives in the sand,
when everything before
seemed imperishable but him.

In the going and coming of families
at times he was my father or kinsman
or perhaps it was scarcely him or not
the one who did not return to his house
because water or earth swallowed him up
or a tree or an engine killed him,
or he was the saddened carpenter
who went behind the coffin, without tears,
someone in the end who had no name,
except those that metal or timber have,
and on whom others gazed from on high
without seeing the ant
for the anthill
and so that when his feet did not stir,
because the poor exhausted one had died,
they never saw what they had not seen:
already there were other feet where he’d been.

The other feet were still his,
and the other hands,
the man remained:
when it seemed that now he was done for
he was the same once more,
there he was digging again at the earth,
cutting cloth, minus a shirt,
there he was and was not, like before,
he had gone down and was once more,
and since he never owned graveyards,
or tombs, nor was his name carved
on the stone he sweated to quarry,
no one knew he had come
and no one knew when he died,
so that only when the poor man could
he returned to life once more, without it being noted.

He was the man, no doubt of it, without heritage,
without cattle, without a flag,
and he was not distinguished from others,
the others who were him,
from the heights he was grey like the subsoil,
tanned like the leather,
he was yellow reaping the wheat,
he was black down in the mine,
he was the colour of stone on the fortress,
in the fishing boat the colour of tuna,
and the colour of horses in the meadow:
how could anyone distinguish him
if he was inseparable, elemental,
earth, coal or sea vested in man?

Where he lived whatever
a man touched grew:
the hostile stones,
quarried
by his hands,
took on order
and one by one formed
the right clarity of a building,
he made bread with his hands,
moved the engines,
the distances peopled themselves with towns,
other men grew,
bees arrived,
and by man’s creating and breeding
spring walked the market squares
between bakeries and doves.

The maker of loaves was forgotten,
he who quarried and journeyed, beating down
and opening furrows, transporting sand,
when everything existed he no longer existed,
he gave his existence, that’s all.
He went elsewhere to labour, and at last
he was dead, rolling
like a stone in the river:
death carried him downstream.

I, who knew him, saw him descend
till he was no longer except what he left:
roads he could scarcely know,
houses he never ever would live in.

I turn to see him, and I await him

I see him in his grave and resurrected.

I distinguish him among all
who are his equals
and it seems to me it cannot be,
that like this we go nowhere,
that to survive like this holds no glory.

I believe that this man
must be enthroned, rightly shod and crowned.
I believe that those who made such things
must be the masters of all these things.
And that those who made bread should eat!

And those in the mines must have light!

Enough now of grey men enslaved!

Enough of the pale ‘missing ones’!

Not another man passes except as a king.

Not a single woman without her crown.

Golden gauntlets for every hand.

Fruits of the sun for all the unknowns!

I knew that man and when I could,
when he still had eyes in his head,
when he still had a voice in his mouth
I searched for him among tombs, and I said
grasping his arm that was not yet dust:

‘All will be gone, you will live on,

You ignite life.

You made what is yours.’

So let no one trouble themselves when
I seem to be alone and am not alone,
I am with no one and speak for them all:

Some listen to me, without knowing,
but those I sing, those who do know
go on being born, and will fill up the Earth.
by Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

Granted one poet’s experience
with manual metaphysics
doesn’t make a poetics;
but I’ve pared my nails to the quick
to temper my craft
and these shabby prescriptions
I learned for myself, at first hand,
If you find them uncouth
for a poet’s vocation,
I agree – no apologies needed!
I smile toward the future
and I am gone before you can give me your reasons.
Pablo Neruda
( from one of my old diaries )

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Sweetness,always(Dulce siempre)

Eu acuso pablo neruda

Why such harsh machinery?
Why, to write down the stuff
and people of everyday,
must poems be dressed up in gold,
in old and fearful stone?

I want verses of felt or feather
which scarcely weigh, mild verses
with the intimacy of beds
where people have loved and dreamed.
I want poems stained
by hands and everydayness.

Verses of pastry which melt
into milk and sugar in the mouth,
air and water to drink,
the bites and kisses of love.
I long for eatable sonnets,
poems of honey and flour.

Vanity keeps prodding us
to lift ourselves skyward
or to make deep and useless
tunnels underground.
So we forget the joyous
love-needs of our bodies.
We forget about pastries.
We are not feeding the world.

In Madras a long time since,
I saw a sugary pyramid,
a tower of confectionery-
one level after another,
and in the construction, rubies,
and other blushing delights,
medieval and yellow.

Someone dirtied his hands
to cook up so much sweetness.

Brother poets from here
and there, from earth and sky,
from Medellin, from Veracruz,
Abyssinia, Antofagasta,
do you know the recipe for honeycombs?

Let’s forget about all that stone.

Let your poetry fill up
the equinoctial pastry shop
our mouths long to devour-
all the children’s mouths
and the poor adults’ also.
Don’t go on without seeing,
relishing, understanding
all these hearts of sugar.

Don’t be afraid of sweetness.

With us or without us,
sweetness will go on living
and is infinitely alive,
forever being revived,
for it’s in a man’s mouth,
whether he’s eating or singing,
that sweetness has its place.

—translated from Spanish by Alastair Reid [ A bilingual Edition]
from
Extravagaria [Estravagario] -Pablo Neruda

(Madras: Now Chennai , a city in south of India)

A certain weariness [Cierto cansancio]- Pablo Neruda

A certain weariness

I don’t want to be tired alone,
I want you to grow tired along with me.

How can we not be weary
of the kind of fine ash
which falls on cities in autumn,
something which doesn’t quite burn,
which collects in jackets
and little by little settles,
discolouring the heart.

I’m tired of the harsh sea
and the mysterious earth.
I’m tired of chickens-
we never know what they think,
and they look at us with dry eyes
as though we were unimportant.

Let us for once-I invite you-
be tired of so many things,
of awful aperitifs,
of a good education.

Tired of not going to France,
tired of at least
one or two days in the week
which have always the same names
like dishes on the table,
and of getting up-what for?-
and going to bed without glory.

Let us finally tell the truth:
we never thought much of
these days that are like
houseflies or camels.

I have seen some monuments
raised to titans,
to donkeys of industry.
They’re there, motionless,
with their swords in their hands
on their gloomy horses.
I’m tired of statues.
Enough of all that stone.

If we go on filling up
the world with still things,
how can the living live?

I am tired of remembering.

I want men, when they’re born,
to breath in naked flowers,
fresh soil, pure fire,
not just what everyone breaths.
Leave the newborn in peace!

Leave room for them to live!
Don’t think for them,
don’t read them the same book;
let them discover the dawn
and name their own kisses.

I want you to be weary with me
of all that is already well done,
of all that ages us.

Of all that lies in wait
to wear out other people.

Let us be weary of what kills
and of what doesn’t want to die.

——translated from Spanish by Alastair Reid [ A bilingual Edition]
from
Extravagaria [Estravagario] -Pablo Neruda

To the foot from its child [ Al pie desde su niño ] –Pablo Neruda

The child’s foot is not yet aware it’s a foot,
and would like to be a butterfly or an apple.

But in time, stones and bits of glass,
streets, ladders,
and the paths in the rough earth
go on teaching the foot that it cannot fly,
cannot be a fruit bulging on the branch.
Then, the child’s foot
is defeated, falls
in the battle,
is a prisoner
condemned to live in a shoe.

Bit by bit, in that dark,
it grows to know the world in its own way,
out of touch with its fellow, enclosed,
feeling out life like a blind man.

These soft nails
of quartz, bunched together,
grow hard, and change themselves
into opaque substance, hard as horn,
and the tiny, petalled toes of the child
grow bunched and out of trim,
take on the form of eyeless reptiles
with triangular heads, like worms.
Later, they grow calloused
and are covered
with faint volcanoes of death,
a coarsening hard to accept.

But this blind thing walks
without respite, never stopping
for hour after hour,
the one foot, the other,
now the man’s,
now the woman’s,
up above,
down below,
through fields, mines,
markets and ministries,
backwards,
far afield, inward,
forward,
this foot toils in its shoe,
scarcely taking time
to bare itself in love or sleep;
it walks, they walk,
until the whole man chooses to stop.

And then it descended
underground, unaware,
for there, everything, everything was dark.
It never knew it had ceased to be a foot
or if they were burying it so that it could fly
or so that it could become
an apple.

——translated from Spanish by Alastair Reid [ A bilingual Edition]

from
Extravagaria [Estravagario] -Pablo Neruda