Writing is an upstream hike,
following the river into its birthwomb,
but neither is the longing quelled
nor the birthwomb found,
and so the ache continues,
flourishing in the heart
like silence caught in a sea of fog,
like the billowing kiss of the infinite sky.

Of writing I speak as a Sufi and a lover; writing as the gateway of love.


Unfree Poet

In my solitude I live,
The mortal wound which the knife
Of dame poetry did give
Bleeds a sea around my isle.

‘Who would venture into me?’
In starry nights and lone dawns
My waves in rattling chains sing
The clutch of infinity.

What am I? An adventure
Though a prisoner I be,
And the dungeon holding me
Burns aquiver with dawn-light.

Unfree thoroughly, and yet,
You tears, you fire, I do bless,
And pray the ache in my chest
Spread you wider poetry.

Artist & Temptress

Let them search for you
in their socially acceptable
and well-ordered places;
I look for you in the dirt
since you are the essence
that makes everything grow.

But each gardener
has his own garden and dirt,
the poet’s, the painter’s,
the musician’s, the carpenter’s,
each artist courts you
in the way most endearing
to his abilities and heart,
and you are there,
a temptress in ever shifting forms,
enticing, luring, calling,
offering your body
as a sea to be crafted
(but can the sea be tamed?),
you are there
the flower of a love
that makes the journey worthwhile,
and the seed of the fruit
that makes your garden leap
from heart to heart,
that makes your sea flood
across the ages of mankind.

His Ink; Her Juice; Their Poetry

She laid there
surrounded by candles,
the inked verses
of past night’s lovemaking
sprawling like vines
all across her naked skin,
the bowl of grapes
placed on her belly
trembling each time
his pen pushed
into her, into the pink flower
between her thighs,
wanting her essence, he said,
her juices mixed
with each word he wrote
in his private journal,
and as the writing
became feverish
her mouth caught fire
and flared with moans
brighter than all
the surrounding candles,
brighter than the moon
peeking jealous
through curtains.
At the pen’s last stroke
the grapes
pressed between their bodies
burst like moans…

Evoking the Beloved

My poem
tries to evoke her,
but silence cannot fit
in the mouth of the sky.

Thus my inked birds
go fluttering about senseless
like embers escaping
a raging fire,
their burning wings searing
the face of the air.

My inked birds
flutter about senseless
but who deciphers their song
as it rains over the earth?

A learned mystic once said
that the beloved is too great
for this world to contain
so existence tears at its seams
and her waters spill
soaking up this world
and all others,
becoming in all things
their inner vibrancy and life.

My poem
tries to evoke her,
but then my heart swells so wide
I find my pen leaving silence
to ink the last line.

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