I’m back with another poem by the immortal Chilean, Pablo Neruda. Probably, if you surveyed everyone who reads poetry (all both of them) on the question of their favorite poet not named Shakespeare, Neruda would lap the field. I think that this is in great part because he writes to us from inside the heart of the issues of our lives, personal & political, & sings the love song in the truest, most seductive voice.
This is by no means a love song. This is a song of deep annoyance at the quotidian sacrifice of self to the workings of the social contract wherein a simple, common gesture can entrap us, & we find ourselves bound up into a situation, more, an existence, that we certainly never meant to commit to.
But that’s not the point of Neruda; his gift is in his Superman x-ray vision: The way that sees through & through & through a simple image & lays each point of penetration before us in perfect sympathetic clarity, so that we always know the truth of what he has shown us, as well as a perfect understanding of how we got there.
& so we are “forever falling / into the deep well of other beings…”, woven into place as if by a spider. “nobody can rescue us from other people.” We have surrendered our voices, our words, our understanding, our sight, & the web is all.
We now are free with our selves only in sleep, where “you are alone in your dreaming, / & running freely through the corridors / of one dream only / which belongs to you…” Our dreams are our liberation, aren’t they? Else we would be stuck in this shit forever.
I don’t have Spanish, & so I do not know Neruda’s ear. I do know that Spanish, like the other languages of romance, is imbued with an easy, florid lyricism. I’m certain that these images sing more lyrically in the tongue in which they were written. But I am grateful for Alistair Reid, Clayton Eshelman, W. S. Merwin & the other fine translators of Pablo Neruda who have given us such access to this great poet..
This is not his best work, but it is very fine work ended.
From the The Paris Review – Daily Poem:
by Pablo Neruda
Issue no. 57 (Spring 1974)
A man says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from his own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings;
and one thread wraps itself around our necks,
another entwines a foot, and then it is impossible,
impossible to move except in the well —
nobody can rescue us from other people.
It seems as if we don’t know how to speak;
it seems as if there are words which escape,
which are missing, when have gone away and left us
to ourselves, tangled up in snares and threads.
And all at once, that’s it; we no longer know
what it’s all about, but we are deep inside it,
and now we will never see with the same eyes
as once we did when we were children playing.
Now these eyes are closed to us,
now our hands emerge from different arms.
And therefore when you sleep, you are alone in your dreaming,
and running freely through the corridors
of one dream only, which belongs to you.
Oh never let them come to steal our dreams,
never let them entwine us in our bed.
Let us hold on to the shadows
to see if, from our own obscurity,
we emerge and grope along the walls,
lie in wait for the light, to capture it,
till, once and for all time,
it becomes our own, the sun of every day.
—translated by Alastair Reid