Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Pablo Neruda: The Riddles

You have asked me what the crustacean spins between its limbs of gold

and I answer: the sea knows it.

Tell me what the ascidian waits for in its transparent bell. What are you waiting for?

I tell you, like you it waits for time.

You ask me who the brown algae reaches with its embrace.

Investigate it, investigate it at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.

Without a doubt you will ask me about the damned ivory of the narwhal, that I may explain

how the harpoon agonized the unicorn of the sea.

You ask perhaps for the plumes of the blue coral that tremble

in the pure origins of the southern tide?

And over the crystalline construction of the octopus you have considered, without a doubt,

one more question, undoing it now?

Do you want to know the electric matter of the pikes of the bottom?

The stalactite army that walks cracking?

The hook of the angler fish, the music extended

in the deep like a thread in the water?

.

I want to say that the sea knows this, that life in its arks

is as wide as the sand, innumerable and pure

and among the blood grapes time has polished

the hardness of one petal, the light of the jellyfish

and has undone the bouquet of their coral strands

from a cornucopia of infinite mother of pearl.

.

I am nothing but the empty net that advances 

human eyes, dead in darkness,

fingers accustomed to the triangle, measures

of a timid hemisphere of orange.

.

I walked like you, digging up

the interminable star,

and in my net, in the night, I woke up naked, 

only prey, a fish enclosed in the wind.

Translation copyright 2020 John Samuel Tieman and  Paola De Santiago Haas


Los Enigmas

Me habéis preguntado qué hila el crustáceo entre sus patas de oro
y os respondo: El mar lo sabe.
Me decís qué espera la ascidia en su campana transparente? Qué espera?
Yo os digo, espera como vosotros el tiempo.
Me preguntáis a quién alcanza el abrazo del alga Macrocustis?
Indagadlo, indagadlo a cierta hora, en cierto mar que conozco.
Sin duda me preguntaréis por el marfil maldito del narwhal, para que yo os conteste
de qué modo el unicornio marino agoniza arponeado.
Me preguntáis tal vez por las plumas alcionarias que tiemblan
en los puros orígenes de la marea austral?
Y sobre la construcción cristalina del pólipo habéis barajado, sin duda,
una pregunta más, desgranándola ahora?
Queréis saber la eléctrica materia de las púas del fondo?
La armada estalactita que camina quebrándose?
El anzuelo del pez pescador, la música extendida
en la profundidad como un hilo en el agua?

.

Yo os quiero decir que esto lo sabe el mar, que la vida en sus arcas
es ancha como la arena, innumerable y pura
y entre las uvas sanguinarias el tiempo ha pulido
la dureza de un pétalo, la luz de la medusa
y ha desgranado el ramo de sus hebras corales
desde una cornucopia de nácar infinito.

.

Yo no soy sino la red vacía que adelanta
ojos humanos, muertos en aquellas tinieblas,
dedos acostumbrados al triángulo, medidas
de un tímido hemisferio de naranja.

.

Anduve como vosotros escarbando
la estrella interminable,
y en mi red, en la noche, me desperté desnudo,
única presa, pez encerrado en el viento.


From Canto general (1950). Included in Vox Populi for non-commercial educational purposes only.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in New York in 1966. PHOTOGRAPH BY SAM FALK / NEW YORK TIMES CO. / GETTY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow Vox Populi and receive new posts by email.

Join 11,464 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 4,014,503 hits

Archives

%d bloggers like this: