Thursday, April 9, 2009

Comfort Without Complete Understanding

Madrigal Written In Winter
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Donald D Walsh

In the depths of the deep sea,
in the night of the long lists,
like a horse your silent
silent name runs past.

Lodge me at your back, oh shelter me,
appear to me in your mirror, suddenly,
upon the solitary, noctural pane,
sprouting from the dark behind you.

Flower of sweet total light,
bring to my call your mouth of kisses,
violent from separations,
resolute and delicate mouth.

Now then, in the long run,
from oblivion to oblivion the rails
reside with me, the cry of the rain:
what the dark night preserves.

Welcome me in the threadlike evening,
when at dusk it works upon
its wardrobe and in the sky a star
twinkles filled with wind.

Bring your substance deep down to me,
heavily, covering my eyes,
let your existence cut across me, supposing
that my heart is destroyed.

Poems are like jigsaw puzzles. Some of them have only 50 pieces, and you can work them in one short sitting. Some of them have 1000 small white pieces that you think you can never finish. The truth is that neither the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, nor the poem you are trying to understand is impossible. They both just take patience, confidence, and time. You have to accept that you're not going to get it immediately and believe that you will eventually come to at least a partial understanding.

A poem like the Neruda above continues to be a revelation, no matter how many times you read it. At first, I just liked the imagery and music of the language: "Alojame en tu espalda, ay, refugiame (Lodge me at your back, oh shelter me...)" and "Flor de la dulce luz completa (Flower of sweet total light...)." Then, the more times I read the poem, the more meaning I began to grasp. There were and still are passages that I don't completely understand. This lack of understanding doesn't matter. It just means that the poem still has something to teach me, some comfort to bring me. What matters is that sometimes, when I feel "that my heart is destroyed," I find comfort in the thought of being sheltered by someone else.

Note: If you read Spanish, find this poem in Spanish. It is even more beautiful in its original form.

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