Pablo Neruda: Accidental 62 Year-Old Heartthrob


One day in literature class, I remember our teacher telling us of how throngs of girls and women showed up at the New York airport in 1966. It was not to meet the Beatles. That happened on a different day. This large group of ladies arrived there simply for the love of words, which came from one man’s heart, his soul. They did not even know what he looked like, or even his age.

That man was Pablo Neruda.

In 1966, Pablo was a 62 year-old Chilean man, pudgy and balding. He was also a devout communist. During the Cold War, that was a big deal. It just goes to show how much our world has changed, since we now live in an era with such an image conscious media with a society of seemingly thin, flimsy values, based on looks and money. Is there still love for a man and his words? I would like to think so. My friend, Susie, says so and that “any guy can get any girl”. She may be right. The power of words… and maybe faith in humanity restored.

I have a few books of his poetry, for he is my favorite poet of the romance genre. I tried to write like him once, but it was futile. I could not duplicate genius and so I gave up on poetry. If I were to compare someone to the flower that has yet to blossom, then that wouldn’t be original anyways.

Today, I will just leave you with this:

Enigmas

You’ve asked me what the lobster is weaving there with
his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this.
You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent
bell? What is it waiting for?
I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.
You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?
Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.
You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal,
and I reply by describing
how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.
You enquire about the kingfisher’s feathers,
which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?
Or you’ve found in the cards a new question touching on
the crystal architecture
of the sea anemone, and you’ll deal that to me now?
You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean
spines?
The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?
The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out
in the deep places like a thread in the water?

I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
jewel boxes
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
petal
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.

I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudes
on the timid globe of an orange.

I walked around as you do, investigating
the endless star,
and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.

Translated by Robert Bly

Pablo Neruda
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