This selection from a poem by Chilean 1971 Nobel winner and nationalist poet seems so appropriate for the present time. May angry hearts take the time to be touched and stop their shouting. I offer it in both English and Spanish. (Pablo Neruda Selected Poems. Ed. Nathaniel Tarn. Translators: Anthony Kerrigan, W, S, Merwin, Alastair Reid, Nathaniel Tarn). “Pueblo” could be the peasant or the people, or as in wars, the young, the poor… their parents.
That man I remember well, and at least two centuries
have passed since I saw him;
he travelled neither on horseback nor carriage –
purely on foot
carrying neither sword nor weapon
but nets on his shoulder,
axe or hammer or spade;
he never fought with another of his kind –
his struggle was with water or with earth,
with the wheat, for it to become bread.
with the towering tree, for it to yield wood,
with the walls, to open doors in them,
with the sand, constructing walls,
and with the sea, to make it bear fruit.
I knew him and still he is there in me.
The carriage splintered in pieces.
war destroyed doorways and walls.
the city was a fistful of ashes,
all the dresses withered into dust,
and he persists, for my sake,
he survives in the sand,
where everything previously
seemed durable except him.
Someone is listening to me and, although they do not know it,
those I sing of, those who know
go on being born and will fill up the world. (A.R)
De aquel hombre me acuerdo y no han pasado
sino dos siglos desde que lo vi,
no anduvo ni a caballo ni en carrozo:
a puro pie
y no llevaba espada ni armadura,
sino redes al hombro,
hacha o martillo o pala
nunca apaleo a ninguno de su especie:
su hazana fue contra el agua o la tierra,
contra el trigo para que hubiera pan,
contra el arbol gigante para que diera lena,
contra los muros para abrir puertas,
contra la arena construyendo muros
y contra el mar para hacerlo parir.
Lo conoci y aun no se me borra
Cayeron en pedazos las carrozas,
la guerra destruyo puertos y muros,
la ciudad fue un punado de cenizas,
se hicieron polvo todos los vestidos,
y el para mi subsiste,
sobrevive en la arena,
cuando antes parecia
todo imborrable menos el.
Alguien me esta escuchando y no lo saben,
pero aquellos que canto y que lo saben,
siguen naciendo y llenaran el mundo. (A.R.)
(Because I took the time to type this up on a USA made computer with microsoft software, it misses accents and tildes -which do not exist in English- on relevant words. I am sorry for this. It feels ironic somehow that the modern science remains capable of hurting the excolonized poor while leaders fight for scraps.)
Margaret D. Gill, Ph.D.