I See Everything That Lives

Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973)

“Look around – there’s only one thing of danger for you here – poetry.”

Pablo Neruda, while having his house searched by soldiers on Pinochet’s orders.

Love Sonnets

Sonnet VIII

By Pablo Neruda

If your eyes were not the color of the moon,
of a day full of clay, and work, and fire,
if even held-in you did not move in agile grace like the air,
if you were not an amber week,

not the yellow moment
when autumn climbs up through the vines;
if you were not that bread the fragrant moon
kneads, sprinkling its flour across the sky,

oh, my dearest, I would not love you so!
But when I hold you I hold everything that is–
sand, time, the tree of the rain,

everything is alive so that I can be alive:
without moving I can see it all:
in your life I see everything that lives

Cien Sonetos de Amor

Soneto VIII

by Pablo Neruda

Si no fuera porque tus ojos tienen color de luna,
de día con arcilla, con trabajo, con fuego,
y aprisionada tienes la agilidad del aire,
si no fuera porque eres una semana de ámbar,
si no fuera porque eres el momento amarillo
en que el otoño sube por las enredaderas
y eres aún el pan que la luna fragante
elabora paseando su harina por el cielo,
oh, bienamada, yo no te amaría!
En tu abrazo yo abrazo lo que existe,
la arena, el tiempo, el árbol de la lluvia,
y todo vive para que yo viva:
sin ir tan lejos puedo verlo todo:
veo en tu vida todo lo viviente.

I realize more and more how tenuous the right of free speech and political freedom remains around the world.  Americans may think because we have access to the internet and rights based on our constitution that free speech is something that is widely protected.  However objecting to political dictators and strong men has always carried risks.   Around the world politicians are becoming bolder in bolder in silencing their critics, political activists and artists who share a contradictory message, silencing them by any means necessary.  The recent killings of journalists in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, even American journalists like Jamal Khashoggi, illustrate how all of us who value the right of free speech need to defend it vigorously.  It is why the current voter suppression efforts by the Republicans across this country is so frightening.    At the core of this movement by Republicans are not democratic principles to improve the safety of elections, but rather dishonest collusion to silence the vote and voice of the majority of our population through restrictions to voting access that will weaken our nation.  Making it harder to vote is suppressing free speech. It will take individuals from across our society, including artists, to step forward and turn back what could become the greatest threat to the concept of the United States of America since its founding.

Pablo Neruda’s death is an example of artistic suppression taken to the extreme. Neruda was hospitalized with cancer in September 1973, during the coup d’état led by Augusto Pinochet.  Neruda, an outspoken critic of the regime, left the hospital after a few days when he suspected a doctor of injecting him with an unknown substance, murdering him on Pinochet’s orders.  Neruda died at his house in Isla Negra on September 23, 1973, hours after leaving the hospital.  Pinochet denied permission for Neruda’s funeral to be public.  Chileans ignored the curfew and thousands crowded the streets to honor the poet.  Neruda’s death has remained controversial to this day.   Although officially his death was reported as heart failure, the Chilean government issued a statement in 2015 saying;  “it was possible and highly likely” that Neruda was killed as a result of “the intervention of third parties”.

A far more pleasing topic is to focus on Neruda’s life and mastery as poet.    He used the sonnet form it to its full effect, a tour de force in imaginative expression, unique to the Spanish language.  Neruda’s sonnets embrace love as a force that gives life, extends life and goes beyond our mortal days.

Love Sonnets

Sonnet XCIV

by Pablo Neruda

If I die, survive me with such pure force
that you waken the furies of the pallid and the cold,
flash your indelible eyes from south to south,
from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth.
I don’t want your laugh or your steps to waver,
I don’t want my legacy of joy to die.
I’m not there, don’t call to my breast in favor,
Live in my absence as in a house.
Absence is a house so vast
that inside you will pass through its walls
and hang pictures on the air
Absence is a house so transparent
that even being dead I will see you there,
and if you suffer, my love, I will die again.

Cien Sonetos de Amor

Soneto XCIV

Si muero sobrevíveme con tanta fuerza pura
que despiertes la furia del pálido y del frío,
de sur a sur levanta tus ojos indelebles,
de sol a sol que suene tu boca de guitarra.
No quiero que vacilen tu risa ni tus pasos,
no quiero que se muera mi herencia de alegría,
no llames a mi pecho, estoy ausente.
Vive en mi ausencia como en una casa.
Es una casa tan grande la ausencia
que pasarás en ella a través de los muros
y colgarás los cuadros en el aire.
Es una casa tan transparente la ausencia
que yo sin vida te veré vivir
y si sufres, mi amor, me moriré otra vez.