Remplis-toi de moi – Pablo Neruda

“Désire-moi, épuise-moi, déverse-moi, sacrifie-moi, demande-moi. Accueille-moi, contiens-moi, cache-moi. Je veux être à quelqu’un, je veux être à toi, c’est ton heure. Je suis celui qui est passé en sautant sur les choses, le fugitif, le douloureux.

Mais je pressens ton heure, l’heure où ma vie devra se verser goutte à goutte sur ton cœur, l’heure des tendresses jamais encore dispensées, l’heure des silences sans paroles, ton heure, aube de sang qui m’a nourri d’angoisses, ton heure, ce minuit qui me fut solitaire.

Délivre-moi de moi. Je veux quitter mon cœur. Je suis ce qui gémît, ce qui brûle et qui souffre. Je suis ce qui attaque, ce qui hurle, ce qui chante. Et non, je ne veux pas être cela. Aide-moi à briser ces portes colossales. Avec tes épaules de soie arrache à la terre ces ancres. Ainsi a-t-on un soir crucifié ma douleur.”

— Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda to Matilde Urrutia

To my beloved wife,

I suffered while I was writing these misnamed “sonnets”; they hurt me and caused me grief, but the happiness I feel in offering them to you is vast as a savanna. When I set this task for myself, I knew very well that down the right sides of sonnets, with elegant discriminating taste, poets of all times have arranged rhymes that sound like silver, or crystal or cannon fire. But—with great humility— I made these sonnets out of wood; I gave them the sound of that opaque pure substance, and that is how they should reach your ears. Walking in forests or on beaches, along hidden lakes, in latitudes sprinkled with ashes, you and I have picked up pieces of pure bark, pieces of wood subject to the comings and goings of water and the weather. Out of such softened relics, then, with hatchet and machete and pocketknife, I built up these lumber piles of love, and with fourteen boards each I built little houses, so that your eyes, which I adore and sing to, might live in them. Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life.

— Pablo Neruda to Matilde Urrutia, October 1959

Death Alone – Pablo Neruda

There are lone cemeteries,
tombs full of soundless bones,
the heart threading a tunnel,
a dark, dark tunnel:
like a wreck we die to the very core,
as if drowning at the heart
or collapsing inwards from skin to soul.

There are corpses,
clammy slabs for feet,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
a bark without its dog,
out of certain bells, certain tombs
swelling in this humidity like lament or rain.

I see, when alone at times,
coffins under sail
setting out with the pale dead, women in their dead braids,
bakers as white as angels,
thoughtful girls married to notaries,
coffins ascending the vertical river of the dead,
the wine-dark river to its source,
with their sails swollen with the sound of death,
filled with the silent noise of death.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot, a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring, stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth, a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo, hushed like a tree.

I do not know, I am ignorant, I hardly see
but it seems to me that its song has the colour of wet violets,
violets well used to the earth,
since the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death is green
with the etched moisture of a violet’s leaf
and its grave colour of exasperated winter.

But death goes about the earth also, riding a broom
lapping the ground in search of the dead –
death is in the broom,
it is the tongue of death looking for the dead,
the needle of death looking for thread.

Death lies in our cots:
in the lazy mattresses, the black blankets,
lives at full stretch and then suddenly blows,
blows sound unknown filling out the sheets
and there are beds sailing into a harbour
where death is waiting, dressed as an admiral.

— Pablo Neruda, From Residencia en la Tierra, II, 1935, translated by Nathaniel Tarn

Reciting Neruda

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The sea at Batroun on April 12, 2015

Reciting poetry as the sea goes on singing, careless, eternal, folding me under its waves like a creature made of salt dissolving into the eternal womb that shaped him. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find myself flung amid the sunlit curves of a woman, seashells bloomed into white flowers, sipping at her pores; or I’ll be a string of pearls rocking against her warm breasts, adorning them as dewdrops made of milk, the froth of the sea; or I’ll be a dash of salt etching into her skin the restless tears burning in the belly of the sea. Alike, for now my bones melt, and this song that I am is thrashed into oblivion under the hammering waves of the infinite monster, this beautiful blue beast.