Isla negra, p.1
POEMS BY PABLO NERUDA
Maria Jacketti, Dennis Maloney, and Clark Zlotchew
WHITE PINE PRESS • BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Copyright © 2001 White Pine Press.
Translations copyright © 1986, 1990, 1993, 1998, 2001 by Maria Jacketti, Dennis Maloney, Clark Zlotchew.
Translations from The House in the Sand reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions.
White Pine Press
P.O. Box 236, Buffalo, New York 14201
All rights reserved.
No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission.
Publication of this book was made possible by grants from the Chrysopolae Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts,
and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-935210-42-9
Printed and bound in the United States of America.
Book design: Elaine LaMattina
“Neruda entrando al bar de su casa en Isla Negra” by Alicia D’Amico.
THE HOUSE IN THE SAND
The Medusa I
Love for This Book
THE STONES OF CHILE
Some Words for a Book of Stone
The Dead Sailor
Stones of Chile
The Blind Statue
Theater of the Gods
I Will Return
The Great Stone Table
Where the Thirsty Fell
The Portrait in the Rock
The Rugged Ship
The Tomb of Victor Hugo on Isla Negra
The Three Ducklings
The Heart of Stone
Air in the Stone
To a Wrinkled Boulder
The Stones and the Birds
To the Traveler
The Tender Bulk
Stones for Maria
The Sea Urchin
The Bronze Dolphin
Sun of the Sea
Farewell to the Offerings of the Sea
THE HOUSE IN THE SAND
DENNIS MALONEY & CLARK ZLOTCHEW
The Pacific Ocean was overflowing the borders of the map. There was no place to put it. It was so large, wild and blue that it didn’t fit anywhere. That’s why it was left in front of my window.
The humanists worried about the little men it devoured over the years.
They do not count.
Not even that galleon, laden with cinnamon and pepper that perfumed it as it went down.
Not even the explorers’ ship—fragile as a cradle dashed to pieces in the abyss—which keeled over with its starving men.
In the ocean, a man dissolves like a bar of salt. And the water doesn’t know it.
I lost my key, my hat, my head! The key came from Raul’s general store in Temuco. It was outside, immense, lost, pointing out the general store, “The Key,” to the Indians. When I came north I asked Raul for it, I tore it from him, I stole it in the midst of fierce and stormy winds. I carried it off toward Loncoche on horseback. From there the key, like a bride dressed in white, accompanied me on the night train.
I have come to realize that everything I misplace in the house is carried off by the sea. The sea seeps in at night through keyholes, underneath and over the tops of doors and windows.
Since by night, in the darkness, the sea is yellow, I suspected, without verifying, its secret invasion. On the umbrella stand or on the gentle ears of Maria Celeste, I would discover drops of metallic sea, atoms of its golden mask. The sea is dry at night. It retains its dimension, its power, and its swells, but turns into a great goblet of sonorous air, into an ungraspable volume that has rid itself of its waters. It enters my house to find out what and how much I have. It enters by night, before dawn: everything in the house is still and salty, the plates, the knives, the things scrubbed by contact with its wildness lose nothing, but become frightened when the sea enters with all its cat-yellow eyes.
That is how I lost my key, my hat, my head.
They were carried off by the ocean in its swaying motion. I found them on a new morning. They are returned to me by the harbinger wave that deposits lost things at my door.
In this way, by a trick of the sea, the morning has returned to me my white key, my sand-covered hat, my head—the head of a shipwrecked sailor.
Where do these agates come from into my hands? Each morning they appear at my doorstep, and it is an early-morning scramble, since some stray shepherd from inland, either Gonzáles Vera, or Lina or Maria fights over these small translucent stones with the Yankas, shellfish gatherers by trade, who, at the edge of the sea, lay in wait for merchandise and think they are entitled to whatever the tide casts ashore.
The truth is that they always wake me at dawn, and here again is the treasure the sea sends me, alone in its hands, at so much per stone or per hundred stones or per kilo or per barrel.
And in my hand the mysterious drops of round light, the color of honey or of oyster, resembling petrified grapes in order to fit into Espinosa’s poem about the Genil River, softly sprinkled by some ashen deity, at times bored through the center by some golden spur, undermined by the tiniest of waves: agates of Isla Negra, mist-colored or light blue, softly carmine or deep green, or violet or reddish or variegated on the inside like clusters of muscat grapes: and often static with transparency, open to the light surrendered by the honeycomb of the ocean to the whim of the crystal: to purity itself.
The house… I don’t know when this was born in me… It was in the mid-afternoon, we were on the way to those lonely places on horseback… Don Eladio was in front, fording the Cordoba stream which had swollen… For the first time I felt the pang of this smell of winter at the sea, a mixture of sweet herbs and salty sand, seaweed and thistle.
Just as I’ve always thought of myself as a carpenter-poet, I think of Rafita as the poet of carpentry. He brings his tools wrapped in a newspaper, under his arm, and unwraps what looks to me like a chapter and picks up the worn handles of his hammers and rasps, losing himself in the wood. His work is perfect.
A little boy and a dog accompany him and watch his hands as they move in careful circles. His eyes are like those of Saint John of the Cross, and his hands raise the colossal tree trunks with delicacy as well as skill.
On the rauli wood beams, I wrote with chalk the names of dead friends, and he went along carving my calligraphy into the wood as swiftly as if he had flown behind me and written the names again wi
I didn’t write them on the roof-beams because they were famous, but because they were companions.
Rojas Giménez, the nomad, nocturnal, pierced with the grief of farewells, dead with joy, pigeon breeder, madman of the shadows.
Joaquín Cifuentes, whose verses rolled like stones in the river.
Federico, who made me laugh like no one else could and who put us all in mourning for a century.
Paul Eluard, whose forget-me-not color eyes are as sky-blue as always and retain their blue strength beneath the earth.
Miguel Hernández, whistling to me like a nightingale from the trees on Princesa Street until they caged my nightingale.
Nazim, noisy bard, brave gentleman, friend.
Why did they leave so soon? Their names will not slip down from the rafters. Each one of them was a victory. Together they were the sum of my light. Now, a small anthology of my sorrows.
They hid me in Valparaiso. Those were turbulent days and my poetry circulated in the street. This disturbed the Sinister One. He demanded my head.
It was in the hills above the port. The boys arrived during the afternoon. Sailors without a ship. What had they seen in the habor? They would tell me everything.
From my hiding place, I could see only through the glass medium of the lofty window. It looked out over an alley.
The news was that an old ship had broken down. Does it have a figurehead on the prow, I anxiously asked.
Of course it has a mona, the boys said. A mona, or mono, which in ordinary Spanish is a monkey, is for Chileans the term for any kind of statue.
From that moment on I directed the activities from the shadows. Since it was very difficult to take her down, she would be given to whomever carried her off.
But the figurehead was to share my destiny. She was very large, and she had to be hidden. Where? At last, the boys found an anonymous and spacious shed. There she was buried in a corner while I crossed the mountains on horseback.
When I came back from exile, years later, the shed had been sold (perhaps along with my lady-friend). We searched for her. She was proudly erected in someone’s garden inland. No one any longer knew whose she was or what she was.
It was as hard to take her out of the garden as it had been to take her out of the sea. Solimano brought her to me one morning in an immense truck. With great effort we unloaded her and left her leaning on the stone bench with her face to the ocean.
I didn’t know her. I had directed the entire operation on the wreck from my darkness. Then violence separated us; later, the land did.
Now I saw her, covered with so many coats of paint that neither the ears nor the nose could be seen. She certainly was majestic in her flowing tunic. She reminded me of Gabriela Mistral, when I, a small child, met her in Temuco, when she would walk around wrapped in Franciscan robes from her topknot to her overshoes.
The anchor arrived from Antofagasta. From some very large ship, the kind that hauls potassium nitrate across the seven seas. It was sleeping there in the arid sands of the great North. One day it occurred to someone to send it to me. With its great size and weight it was a difficult voyage, from truck to crane, from ship to train, to harbor, to ship. When it arrived at my door, it refused to move any further. They brought a tractor. The anchor didn’t budge. They brought several oxen, which dragged it along in a short, frantic run, and then it did move, to remain leaning against the plants in the sand.
“Will you paint it? It’s rusting.”
It doesn’t matter. It is powerful and silent as though it were still on its vessel and the corrosive wind was not attacking it in all its fury. I like the dross that little by little is covering it with infinite scales of orange iron.
Everyone ages in his or her own way, and the anchor bears up in solitude as it did on its vessel, with dignity. One hardly notes the flaked-off iron on its arms.
Love for This Book
In these lonely regions I have been powerful,
like a fine set of tools,
like untrammeled grass which lets loose its seed,
or like a dog rolling around in the dew.
Matilde, time will pass wearing out and inflaming
other skin, other fingernails, other eyes, and then
the algae that lashed our wild rocks,
the waves that build, ceaselessly, their whiteness,
all will be steady without us,
all will be ready for the new days,
with no idea of our destiny.
What do we leave here but the lost cry
of the seabird in the winter sand, in the gusts of wind
that cut our faces and kept us
upright in the light of purity,
as in the heart of an illustrious star?
What do we leave, living like a nest
of surly birds, alive, among the thickets
or static, perched on the frigid cliffs?
So then, if living was nothing more than anticipating
the earth, this soil and its harshness,
deliver me, my love, from not doing my duty, and help me
return to my place beneath the hungry earth.
We asked the ocean for its rose,
its open star, its bitter contact,
and to the overburdened, the fellow man, the wounded
we gave the freedom gathered in the wind.
It’s late now. Perhaps
it was only a long day the color of honey and blue,
perhaps only a night, like the eyelid
of a grave look that encompassed
the measure of the sea that surrounded us,
and in this territory we found only a kiss,
only ungraspable love that will remain here
wandering among sea foam and roots.
THE STONES OF CHILE
Some Words for a Book of Stone
This stony book, born in the desolate coastlands and mountain ranges of my country, was abandoned in my thoughts for twenty years. It wasn’t possible to write it then for wandering reasons and the tasks of every year and day.
It is the poet who must sing with his countrymen and give to man all that is man: dream and love, light and night, reason and madness. But let’s not forget the stones! We should never forget the silent castles, the bristling, round gifts of the planet. They fortify citadels, advance to kill or die, adorn our existence without compromise, preserving the mysteries of their ultraterrestrial matter, independent and etemal.
My compatriot, Gabriela Mistral, said once that in Chile it is the skeleton that one sees first, the profusion of rocks in the mountains and sand. As nearly always, there is much truth in what she said.
I came to live in Isla Negra in 1939 and the coast was strewn with these extraordinary presences of stone and they spoke to me in a hoarse and drenching language, a jumble of marine cries and primal warnings.
Because of this, the book, adorned with portraits of creatures of stone, is a conversation that I open to all the poets of the earth, so that it may be continued by all in order to encounter the secret of stone and of life.
For stone was the blood,
for stone the weeping,
the prayer, the procession:
stone was free will.
Because in sweat and in fire
the gods of stone were born
and then the saint of rain grew,
the lord of the struggles
for the corn, for the earth,
bird gods, serpent gods,
the fertile, the unfortunate,
all were born of stone:
America raised them
with a thousand small golden hands,
with eyes already lost,
clouded with blood and neglect.
But my country was of light,
a man alone came and went,
without other gods than thunder:
and there my heart grew:
I came from Araucania.
It was plant and seashore,
diurnal like the hummingbirds,
red like the crab,
green as water in October,
silvery as a small fish,
wild as a partridge,
and thinner than an arrow
was the southern land, worn away
by the great winds of the sky,
by the stars of the sea.
In Chile gods are not born,
Chile is the home of quarries.
So, in the rock grew
arms and mouths, feet and hands,
the stone became a monument:
it cut open the cold, the month of June
added petals and feathers
and then time came and arrived,
left and returned, returned and left,
until it deserted,
the kingdom without blood and without gods,
filled with pure figures:
Stone illuminated my country
with its natural statues.
The oldest bull crossed the day.
His legs scratched the planet.
He continued, traveling to where the sea lives.
He reached the shore, the oldest bull.
On the edge of time, the ocean.
He closed his eyes and grass covered him.
He breathed the whole green distance.
And silence built the rest.
The Dead Sailor
The sailor wounded
by the seas,
fell into the ancient abyss,
into the sargasso’s dream.
Immediately, he was hurled down
and the furious salt
scattered his death.
Here is his head.
The stone preserved his scars
when the hard