Starting Small with Pablo Neruda

I'm still recovering from the holidays.  I don't know what it is but I haven't quite bounced back to my regular self yet.  The weather could have something to do with it.  I have barely been outside the last few weeks because it has been so icy and cold.  I could definitely use some oxygen and maybe some New Year's resolutions.

I don't know what is on your list but I'm starting small, small like the sand, taking tiny baby steps.  I've tried other ways in the past.  I had long lists, ambitious lists, 10 year lists and hour-by-hour inspired schedules that I was going to adhere to but it never worked out.  I burnt out and then I quit only to repeat the same pattern over and over again.  No more I say.

So, in an effort to improve my writing skills and to look at language from a different perspective I have started to read the poetry of Pablo Nerudo, the Chilean poet I mentioned in my previous post on artist Richard Giglio.  I'll leave you here with a couple of poems I have selected in no particular order and I wish you a Happy New Year. 


When slowly, very slowly, I learned
to speak
I think I also learned how to be incoherent:
no one understood my words, not even myself,
and I hated those words
that always made me come back
to the same pit,
to the pit of my still dark being,
still recovering from being born.
Until one day I found on a railroad track
or perhaps it was a newly sown field
a word:  oregano
This word made me unwind,
as if guiding me out of a labyrinth.

Here is "Ode to the Onion".  Now, if there is one thing you should know about me is that I absolutely abhor onions (especially when they're raw, god that awful smell) but I like this poem for many reasons. First, because Neruda makes poetry accessible by appealing to our senses by using brilliant imagery.  And secondly, because he treats ordinary subjects like they should be the focal point of a Rembrandt painting.

luminous vessel,
your grace took shape
petal by petal,
crystal scales made you grow
and in the dark corners of the earth
your belly of dew grew large.
Under the earth
the miracle took place
and when your clumsy green stem
sprang forth
and your leaves
were born like swords in the orchards,
the earth gathered its power
showing your naked transparence
and like the faraway sea
duplicating a magnolia
in the breasts of Aphrodite,
the earth made you thus,
clear like a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor...

There's something really self-indulgent about reading poetry, but there is beauty in seeing flowing words on a page.  And Neruda's inked sentences celebrate life the way meat enhances every meal.  It is a privilege to be able to write like this and even more of a privilege to read it.

Happy New Year Everyone and remember to start small. 

P.S.  Both poems are courtesy of Earth Tones, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda by Manuel Duran and Margery Safir. 

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