24 February 2010

Voices and Soul

23 February 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile Contributing Poetry Editor

Some say that Life is a mystery. Some say if we can just cut into it, dissect it and see what makes it breathe and speak; we then will have our questions answered, the mystery will be solved. Will it though? Won't our fears and prejudices interpret or misinterpret what we see? Alexander Pope said, "T'is with our lives as our watches. None go just alike, but each believes his own."

This week's poem by Pablo Neruda, suggests that all of us cast our net out into the world, but all we may end up finding are our own ideas and biases reinforced. Rather than count how many grains of sand make up a beach, Neruda suggests that the beauty of the beach may simply be enough. Rather than mysteries, Life is a collection and assemblage of...


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
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
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.

-- Pablo Neruda

(translated by Robert Bly)

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