weekend-readsThe Widower’s Tango

Pablo Neruda

Translated from Spanish by Lewis Hyde

     Oh Maligna, now you’ve found the letter, now you’ve cried with rage,
and you’ve insulted the memory of my mother,
calling her a rotten bitch and the mother of dogs,
now you’ve drunk the afternoon tea alone, lonely,
staring at my old shoes, empty forever,
and now you can’t recall my illnesses, my night dreams, my meals,
without cursing me out loud as if I were still there
complaining about the tropics, about the corringhis coolies,
about the poison fevers that hurt me so much
and about the dreadful Englishmen, whom I still hate.

     Maligna, the truth, what an immense night, what a lonely earth!
Once again I’ve come to lonely sleeping rooms,
to eating my cold breakfast in restaurants, and once again
I throw my pants and shirts on the floor,
my room has no coat racks, no portraits of anyone on the walls.
How much of the shadow that’s in my soul I would give to have you back,
and how threatening the names of the months seem to me
and how the word winter sounds like a sorrowful drum.

     Later you’ll find, buried by the coconut palm,
the knife I hid there for fear you’d kill me,
and now, suddenly, I’d like to smell its kitchen steel
accustomed to the weight of your hand and the shine of your foot:
under the dampness of the earth, among the deaf roots,
of the human languages only that of the poor could know your name,
and the heavy earth doesn’t understand your name
made out of impenetrable, divine substances.

     This is how it hurts me to think of the clear day of your legs
resting like suspended and firm water from the sun,
and the swallow that lives in your eyes, sleeping and flying,
and the dog of rage that you shelter in your heart,
and this is also how I see the dead who are between us from now on,
and I breathe the air made of ashes and ruins,
the long, lonely space that surrounds me forever.

      I’d give this wind from the gigantic sea for your rough breathing
heard in the long nights without a trace of forgetfulness,
uniting itself with the atmosphere like the whip on the horse’s hide.
And just to hear you pissing in the dark at the back of the house,
as if you were spilling a thin, trembling, silvery, insistent honey,
how many times I would deliver up this chorus of shadows I possess,
and the sound of useless swords that can be heard in my soul,
and the pigeon of blood that’s all alone on my forehead
calling for things that are missing, missing people,
substances strangely inseparable and lost.

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