Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another long poem. sorry. Tried steering away from them, but this is a good one. A colleague and I are instituting a new walking plan today. Since my thyroid has been overactive, I have felt terrible, both mentally and physically. I have stopped walking places entirely, because it caused my heart to beat a little too hard for comfort. But after a week of medications, I feel better enough to tackle the 2-mile round trip to work and back. I miss the feeling of striding along at a comfortable pace, the slight stretch up the back of my hamstring, the swing of my arms. I'm ready to have that back. It's also amazing how much your thyroid controls feelings like irritation which can be bottled in, and produced by the most unlikely of sources. Cracks in the sidewalk? Really?! I've almost been brought to tears because of it.

Pablo Neruda is best known for his sensual poems of "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" and the open sexuality of "The Body of a Woman." Freud would probably have plenty to say about our eagerness to identify Neruda as a purely sexual poet. But readers often miss what Neruda's hallmark as a poet really is: his mastery of describing all sensory experiences. Enjoy this one about a walk through his neighborhood.

Walking Around
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

Translated by Robert Bly

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