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Ode to Bird-Watching

>> Thursday, November 26, 2009

One of my very favorite poets is Pablo Neruda.  My best friend introduced me to him (well, to his poems, not to the man himself) a number of years ago.

A few tidbits about the man:  Pablo Neruda was originally the pen name, although later also the legal name, of Neftal√≠ Ricardo Reyes Basoalto.  He was a Chilean communist politician, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and at one time a political exile from Chile.  Pablo Neruda was also at one time nominated as a candidate for the presidency of Chile, but instead backed Salvador Allende, who became the first democratically elected socialist head of state in Chile.  He served as a diplomat, and a senator.  Pablo Neruda died in September of 1973.

I find Pablo Neruda's poems positively enchanting.  He wrote some moving political poems, but also has poems called "Ode to Laziness", "Ode to the Onion", and "Ode to My Socks".  For me, the really incredible thing about Pablo Neruda is how deep and dark the places are that he reaches inside me - for pity's sake, I cry when I read "Ode to My Socks".  Seriously.  And I am not a crier, at all.

By far my favorite Pablo Neruda poem, though, is his Ode to Bird-Watching.  Of course, it makes me cry, too.  I thought this a fitting post for Thanksgiving, as it reminds me how grateful I am for the woods and the wild places of this earth, and of course the birds, despite how exasperating they can sometimes be.  The exasperation is part of their richness.

(translation by Stephen Mitchell).

Ode to Bird-Watching

Now
to look for birds!
The high iron branches
in the forest,
the dense
fecundity of the soil,
the whole world
is wet,
rain or dew
shines, a tiny
star
in the leaves:
in the early morning
mother earth is cool,
the air
is like a river
that shakes
the silence,
it smells of rosemary,
of space
and roots.
Above,
a wild song,
a waterfall,
it's a bird.
How
from a throat
smaller than a finger
can the waters
of this song fall?
Luminous grace!
Invisible
power,
torrent
of music
in the leaves,
sacred conversation!

Clean, washed, cool
is this day,
resonant
like a green zither,
I bury my shoes
in the mud,
I leap over springs,
a thorn
nips me and a gust
of air like a crystal
wave
separates on my chest.
Where
are the birds?
Was that one, maybe,
that
whispering in the foliage
or that fugitive ball
of gray velvet
or that sudden shift
of perfume?  That leaf
which the cinnamon tree let go,
was it a bird?  That dust
from the irritated magnolia
or that fruit
which fell resounding,
was that a flight?
O invisible little cretins,
fiendish birds,
go
to hell
with your twittering,
with your useless feathers!
I just wanted
to stroke them,
to see them glisten,
I don't want
to see their lightning embalmed
in a showcase,
I want to see them alive,
I want to touch their gloves
of genuine leather,
which they never forget in the branches,
and to talk with them
on my shoulders
even if they leave me like certain statues
undeservedly whitened.

Impossible.
They can't be touched,
they can be heard
like a heavenly
whisper or movement,
they talk
precisely,
repeat
their observations,
brag
about whatever they're doing,
comment
on whatever exists,
master
certain sciences
like hydrography
and know for certain
where all the grains
are being harvested.

Well then,
invisible
birds
of the forest, of the woods,
of the pure bower,
birds of the acacia
and of the oak,
crazy, amorous,
astonishing birds,
conceited
soloists,
migratory musicians,
one last
word
before
I go back
with wet shoes, thorns
and dry leaves
to my home:
vagabonds,
I love you
free,
far from the shotgun and the cage,
fugitive
corollas,
this is the way
I love you,
ungraspable,
united and sonorous
society of the heights,
liberated
leaves,
champions
of the air,
petals
of smoke,
free,
cheerful
flyers and singers,
aerial, terrestrial,
sailors of the wind,
happy
builders
of the softest nests,
unceasing
messengers of pollen,
matchmakers
of the flower, uncles
of the seed,
I love you,
ingrates:
I'm going home,
happy to have lived with you
a moment
in the wind.

3 comments:

Anvita Lakhera December 7, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

Hello,
Thanks for posting this poem (was searching for it for a blog post). What a lovely find your blog is. Also adore the picture of Simon and Lucy. Have a great week.
regards,
anvita

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: December 8, 2009 at 3:35 PM  

Thank you, Anvita, and welcome to my blog!

senorjoel November 22, 2015 at 6:43 PM  

Yes, thank you for posting the whole poem in English! Several sites have posted it but stop short of the last few lines. I like your blog and will share it with my nature loving artist friend.
Joel

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