Poetry Friday: “A Few Things Explained” by Pablo Neruda

You will ask:  And where are the lilacs?
And the metaphysics muffled in poppies?
And the rain which so often has battered
its words till they spouted up
gullies and birds?

I’ll tell you how matters stand with me.

I lived for a time in suburban
Madrid, with its bells
and its clock and its trees.

The face of Castile
could be seen from that place, parched,
like an ocean of leather.

People spoke of my house
as “the house with the flowers”: it exploded
geraniums: such a beautiful
house, with the
dogs and the small fry.
Remember, Raul?
Remember it, Rafael?
Federico, under the ground
there, remember it?
Can you remember my house with the balconies where
June drowned the dazzle of flowers in your teeth?

Ah, brother, my brother!
the voices were generous, the salt of the market place,
convocations of shimmering bread,
the stalls of suburban Arguelles with its statue
as wan as an inkwell in the sheen of the hake:
oil brimmed the spoons,
a wild pandemonium
of fingers and feet overflowing the streets,
meters and liters, all the avid
quintessence of living,
fish packed in the stands,
a contexture of roofs in the chill of the sun
where the arrowpoints faltered;
potatoes, inflamed and fastidious ivory,
tomatoes again and again to the sea.

Til one morning everything blazed:
one morning bonfires
sprang out of the earth
and devoured all the living;
since then, only fire,
since then, the blood and the gunpowder,
ever since then.

Bandits in airplanes, Moors
and marauders with seal rings and duchesses,
black friars and brigands signed with the cross, coming
out of the clouds to a slaughter of innocents:
the blood of the children was seen in the streets,
flowing easily out, in the habit of children.

Jackals abhorred by the jackal!
Spittle of stones that the thirst of the thistle rejected,
vipers despised by the viper!

In sight of you now, I have seen
Spain uplifting its blood
in a torrent
of knives and defiance, to carry you under!

and generals:
see the death of my house,
look well at the havoc of Spain:
out of dead houses it is metal that blazes
in place of the flowers,
out of the ditches of Spain
it is Spain that emerges,
out of the murder of children, a gunsight with eyes,
out of your turpitude, bullets are born
that one day will strike for the mark
of your hearts.

Would you know why his poems
never mention the soil or the leaves,
the gigantic volcanoes of the country that bore him?

Come see the blood in the streets,
come see
the blood in the streets,
come see the blood
in the streets!


3 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “A Few Things Explained” by Pablo Neruda

  1. Pingback: elucidating a bit of stuff | The Present Tenser

  2. It seems as though someone translates a Neruda poem every day every hour every minute. Most of them are not very good, the translations. They don’t sound like poetry, much less sounding like Neruda . They have extra words, they have extra phrases, they have no music. Neruda is a lyric poem, his words are like a rush of hot flame or cold water . The only one who makes him sound like a poet, in English, the only one who translates Him truly is Ben Bellett, as in this utterly memorable translation.

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