|Pablo Neruda [Haiti Chery]|
from Pablo Neruda's Odes to Opposites, tr. Ken Krabbenhoft:
Ode to Solitude
O solitude, beautiful
grows between your syllables!
But you are only a pale
and counterfeit coin!
I painted solitude in literary
dressed it in a tie
I had copied from a book,
and the shirt
I first really saw it when I was by myself.
I’d never seen an animal
quite like it:
it looks like
a hairy spider
or the flies
that hover over dung,
and its camel paws have
suckers like a deep-sea snake.
It stinks like a warehouse piled high
with brown hides of rats and seals
that have been rotting forever.
Solitude, I want you
to stop lying through the mouths of books.
Consider the brooding young poet:
he’s looking for a black marble slab
the sleeping senorita; in your honor he erects
a simple statue
that he’ll forget
the morning of his wedding.
in the half-light of those early years
we boys stumble across her
and take her for a black goddess
shipped from distant islands.
We play with her torso and pledge
the perfect reverence of childhood.
As for the creativity
of solitude: it’s a lie.
Seeds don’t live
singly underneath the soil:
it takes hordes of them to insure
the deep harmony of our lives,
and water is but the transparent mother
of invisible submarine choirs.
Is the earth’s solitude, and mankind’s
like the desert. The same
hours, nights and days
wrap the whole planet
in their cloak —
but they leave nothing in the desert.
Solitude does not accept seeds.
A ship on the sea
isn’t the only image of its beauty.
It flies over the water like a dove,
of wondrous collaborations
between fires and stokers,
navigators and stars,
men’s arms and flags in congregation,
shared loves and destinies.
In its search for self-expression
music sought out
the choir’s coral hardness.
It was written
not by a single man
but by a whole score
of musical relations.
And this word
which I poise here suspended on a branch,
this song that yearns
solely for the solitude of your lips
to repeat it —
the air inscribes it at my side, lives
that were lived long before me.
And you, who are reading my ode:
you’ve used it against your own solitude.
We’ve never met, and yet it’s your hands
that wrote these lines, with mine.