Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Explain a Few Things; and On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the War in Vietnam

1. I Explain A Few Things (Pablo Neruda)

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?

the poppy-petalled metaphysics?

and the rain repeatedly spattering

its words and drilling them full

of apertures and birds?

I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,

a suburb of Madrid, with bells,

and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out

over Castille's dry face:

a leather ocean.

My house was called

the house of flowers, because in every cranny

geraniums burst: it was

a good-looking house

with its dogs and children.

Remember, Raul?

Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember

from under the ground

my balconies on which

the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?

Brother, my brother!


loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,

pile-ups of palpitating bread,

the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue

like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:

oil flowed into spoons,

a deep baying

of feet and hands swelled in the streets,

metres, litres, the sharp

measure of life,

stacked-up fish,

the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which

the weather vane falters,

the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,

wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,

one morning the bonfires

leapt out of the earth

devouring human beings —and from then on fire,

gunpowder from then on,

and from then on blood.

Bandits with planes and Moors,

bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,

bandits with black friars spattering blessings

came through the sky to kill children

and the blood of children ran through the streets

without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,

stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spitout,

vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood

of Spain tower like a tide

to drown you in one wave

of pride and knives!



see my dead house,

look at broken Spain:

from every house burning metal flows

instead of flowers,

from every socket of Spain

Spain emerges

and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,

and from every crime bullets are born

which will one day find

the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetryspeak of dreams and leaves

and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.

Come and see

The blood in the streets.

Come and see the blood

In the streets!

2. On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the War inVietnam (Hayden Carruth)

Well I have and in fact

more than one and I'll

tell you this too

I wrote one against

Algeria that nightmare

and another against

Korea and another

against the one

I was in

and I don't remember

how many against

the three

when I was a boy

Abyssinia Spain and

Harlan County

and not one

breath was restored

to one

shattered throat

mans womans or childs

not one not


but death went on and on

never looking aside

except now and then

with a furtive half-smile

to make sure I was noticing.

(NOTE: These two poems were initially posted to the group on July 11, 2006, to mark the train blasts in India.)

1 comment:

  1. I love Neruda, all words and lush sentiment as always, but reading Carruth right after silences everything.