Poem of the week June 15.

Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Laureate regarded as one the great poets of the century, became a buzzword in the US mainstream (perhaps even globally) after the runaway success of the Italian cinema Il Postino. His poem, called “Poetry”, that was used at the end of the movie “And it was at that age… poetry arrived in search of me” is a wonderful poem. It instantly rang true when I first read it. The vehemence, the clarity on how words just descend into the mind “but from a street I was summoned, from the branches of night, abruptly from the others”. I know this to be true.

So too, his poems in the translated “Twenty poems of love”, are smoldering with emotion, fiery, deeply moving.

But my personal favourite is a poem he wrote on stillness. On being quiet.

Art is the expression of the soul. And occasionally, a great artist touches the divine in all of us through sheer force. In “Keeping Quiet”, Pablo Neruda’s poem compels us to grasp the essence of stillness. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a line in Chapter 4 that says “The wise one sees the action in inaction (renunciation of activities) and inaction in action”. Neruda evokes, in a different language but equally beautifully, the action inherent in stillness. He even states that it not be confused with “final inactivity”.

For those of us caught up in the manic urgency inherent in modern urban milieus, we need to revisit this poem again and again.

But enough. It is time to count to twelve.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

In the original Spanish

A Callarse
Ahora contaremos doce
y nos quedamos todos quietos.
Por una vez sobre la tierra
no hablemos en ningun idioma,
por un segundo detengamonos,
no movamos tanto los brazos.

Seria un minuto fragante,
sin prisa, sin locomotoras,
todos estariamos juntos
en una inquietud instantanea.

Los pescadores del mar frio
no harian danio a las ballenas
y el trabajador de la sal
miraria sus manos rotas.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,
guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,
victorias sin sobrevivientes,
se pondrian un traje puro
y andarian con sus hermanos
por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

No se confunda lo que quiero
con la inaccion definitiva:
la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte.

Si no pudimos ser unanimes
moviendo tanto nuestras vidas,
tal vez no hacer nada una vez,
tal vez un gran silencio pueda
interrumpir esta tristeza,
este no entendernos jamas
y amenazarnos con la muerte,
tal vez la tierra nos ensenie
cuando todo parece muerto
y luego todo estaba vivo.

Ahora contare hasta doce
y tu te callas y me voy.



One thought on “Poem of the week June 15.

  1. It is very true that silence brings the peace,creativity and serenity.I liked it very much and more so bringing out the essence of Bhagavat Gita into it.

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