By Pablo Neruda
You will ask: But where are the lilacs?
And the metaphysics covered with poppies?
And the rain that often struck
his words, filling them
with holes and birds?
I am going to tell you what’s happening to me.
I lived in a barrio
of Madrid, with bells,
with clocks, with trees.
From there you could see
the parched face of Castile
like an ocean of leather.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because from everywhere
geraniums burst: it was
a beautiful house,
with dogs and children.
Raul, do you remember?
Do you remember, Rafael?
Federico, do you remember
under the ground,
do you remember my house with balconies
where the June light drowned the flowers in your mouth?
was loud voices, salt of goods,
crowds of pulsating bread,
marketplaces in my barrio of Arguelles with its statue
like a pale inkwell set down among the hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep throbbing
of feet and hands filled the streets,
meters, liters, the hard
edges of life,
heaps of fish,
geometry of roofs under a cold sun in which
the weathervane grew tired,
delirious fine ivory of potatoes,
tomatoes, more tomatoes, all the way to the sea.
And one morning all was burning
and one morning bonfires
sprang out of the earth
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandidos with planes and Moors,
bandidos with rings and duchesses,
bandidos with black friars signing the cross
coming down from the sky to kill children,
and in the streets the blood of the children
ran simply, like children’s blood.
Jackals the jackal would despise,
stones the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers the vipers would abominate.
Facing you I have seen the blood
of Spain rise up
to drown you in a single wave
of pride and knives.
look at my dead house,
look at Spain broken:
from every house burning metal comes out
instead of flowers,
but from every crater of Spain
from every dead child comes a rifle with eyes,
from every crime bullets are born
that will one day will find out in you
the site of the heart.
You will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
Speak to us of dreams, of leaves
of the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets,
come and see
the blood in the streets,
come and see the blood
in the streets!
Translated by Galway Kinnell
* Line breaks are not how they originally appear