from Itineraries by Pablo Neruda

Suddenly, as I am walking,
from somewhere there emerges
the smell of stone or rain,
something so infinitely pure
which comes from somewhere or other,
and talks to me without words;
and I recognize a mouth
which is not there, which goes on talking.
I look for the source of that aura–
from what city, from what journey–
I know that someone is looking for me,
someone is lost in the darkness.
And I don’t know, if someone has kissed me,
what those kisses could mean.

Perhaps I have put myself in order,
beginning with my head.
I’m going to divide into numbered squares
my brain and my cerebellum,
and when a memory crops up
I will say ‘a hundred and something’.
Then I will recognize
the wall and the climbing vine,
and perhaps I’ll entertain myself
giving names to forgotten things.
In any case, here
I propose to end all this,
and before going back to Brazil
by way of Antofagasta,
in Isla Negra I am waiting
between yesterday and Valparaisio.

translated by Alastair Reid

from This is where we live by Pablo Neruda

I am grateful to the earth
for having waited
for me
when sky and sea came together
like two lips touching;
for that’s no small thing, no?–
to have lived
through one solitude to arrive at another,
to feel oneself many things and recover wholeness.

I love all the things there are,
and of all fires
love is the only inexhaustible one;
and that’s why I go from life to life,
from guitar to guitar,
and I have no fear
of light or of shade,
and almost being earth myself,
I spoon away at infinity.

So no one can ever fail
to find my doorless numberless house–
there between dark stones,
facing the flash
of the violent salt,
there we live, my woman and I,
there we take root.
Grant us help then.
Help us to be more of the earth each day!
Help us to be
more the sacred foam,
more the swish of the wave!

translated by Alastair Reid

from Enigmas by Pablo Neruda

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

Masses by Cesar Vallejo

. . .When the battle was over,
and the fighter was dead, a man came toward him
and said to him: “Do not die; I love you so!”
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

. . .And two came near, and told him again and again:
“Do not leave us! Courage! Return to life!”
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

. . .Twenty arrived, a hundred, a thousand, five hundred thousand,
shouting: “So much love, and it can do nothing against death!”
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

. . .Millions of persons stood around him,
all speaking the same thing: “Stay here, brother!”
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

. . .Then all the men of the earth
stood around him; the corpse looked at them sadly, deeply moved;
he sat up slowly,
put his arms around the first man; started to walk. . .

translated by Robert Bly

Sleep Close To Me by Gabriela Mistral (Lucila Godoy Alcayaga)

Fold of my flesh
I carried in my womb,
tender trembling flesh
sleep close to me!

The partridge sleeps in the wheat
listening to its heartbeat.
Let not my breath disturb you
sleep close to me!

Little tender grass
afraid to live,
don’t move from my arms;
sleep close to me!

I have lost everything,
and tremble until I sleep.
Don’t move from my breast;
sleep close to me!

translated by D.M. Pettinella