pablo neruda – ode and burgeonings (1952)


The taste of your mouth and the color of your skin,
skin, mouth, fruit of these swift days,
tell me, were they always beside you
through years and journeys and moons and suns
and earth and weeping and rain and joy
or is it only now that
they come from your roots,
only as water brings to the dry earth
burgeonings that it did not know,
or as to the lips of the forgotten jug
the taste of the earth rises in the water?

I don’t know, don’t tell me, you don’t know.
Nobody knows these things.
But bringing all my senses close
to the light of your skin, you disappear,
you melt like the acid
aroma of a fruit
and the heat of a road,
and the smell of corn being stripped,
the honeysuckle of the pure afternoon,
the names of the dusty earth,
the infinite perfume of our country:
magnolia and thicket, blood and flour,
the gallop of horses,
the village’s dusty moon,
newborn bread:
ah from your skin everything comes back to my mouth,
comes back to my heart, comes back to my body,
and with you I become again
the earth that you are:
you are deep spring in me:
in you I know again how I am born.


Years of yours that I should have felt
growing near me like clusters
until you had seen how the sun and the earth
had destined you for my hands of stone,
until grape by grape you had made
the wine sing in my veins.
The wind or the horse
swerving were able
to make me pass through your childhood,
you have seen the same sky each day,
the same dark winter mud,
the endless branching of the plum trees
and their dark-purple sweetness.
Only a few miles of night,
the drenched distances
of the country dawn,
a handful of earth separated us, the transparent
that we did not cross, so that life,
afterward, could put all
the seas and the earth
between us, and we could come together
in spite of space,
step by step seeking each other,
from one ocean to another,
until I saw that the sky was aflame
and your hair was flying in the light
and you came to my kisses with the fire
of an unchained meteor
and as you melted in my blood, the sweetness
of the wild plum
of our childhood I received in my mouth,
and I clutched you to my breast as
if I were regaining earth and life.


My wild girl, we have had
to regain time
and march backward, in the distance
of our lives, kiss after kiss,
gathering from one place what we gave
without joy, discovering in another
the secret road
that gradually brought your feet close to mine,
and so beneath my mouth
you see again the unfulfilled plant
of your life putting out its roots
toward my heart that was waiting for you.
And one by one the nights
between our separated cities
are joined to the night that unites us.
The light of each day,
its flame or its repose,
they deliver to us, taking them from time,
and so our treasure
is disinterred in shadow or light,
and so our kisses kiss life:
all love is enclosed in our love:
all thirst ends in our embrace.
Here we are at last face to face,
we have met,
we have lost nothing.
We have felt each other lip to lip,
we have changed a thousand times
between us death and life,
all that we were bringing
like dead medals
we threw to the bottom of the sea,
all that we learned
was of no use to us:
we begin again,
we end again
death and life.
And here we survive,
pure, with the purity that we created,
broader than the earth that could not lead us astray,
eternal as the fire that will burn
as long as life endures.


When I reached here my hand stops.
Someone asks: “Tell me, why, like waves
on a single coast, do your words
endlessly go and return to her body?
Is she the only form that you love?”
And I answer: “My hands never tire
of her, my kisses do not rest,
why should I withdraw the words
that repeat the trace of her beloved contact,
words that close, uselessly
holding like water in a net
the surface and the temperature
of the purest wave of life?”
And, love, your body is not only the rose
that in shadow or moonlight rises,
it is not only movement or burning,
act of blood or petal of fire,
but to me you have brought
my territory, the clay of my childhood,
the waves of oats,
the round skin of the dark fruit
that I tore from the forest,
aroma of wood and apples,
color of hidden water where secret
fruits and deep leaves fall.
Oh love, your body rises
like the pure line of a goblet
from the earth that knows me
and when my senses found you
you throbbed as though within you
rain and seeds were falling.
Ah let them tell me how
I could abolish you
and let my hands without your form
tear the fire from my words.
My gentle one, rest
your body in these lines that owe you
more than you give me through your touch,
live in these words and repeat
in them the sweetness and the fire,
tremble amid their syllables,
sleep in my name as you have slept
upon my heart, and so tomorrow
my words will keep
the hollow of your form
and he who hears them one day will receive a gust
of wheat and poppies;
the body of love will still
be breathing upon earth!


Thread of wheat and water,
of crystal or of fire,
word and night,
work and anger,
shadow and tenderness,
little by little you have sewn it all
into my threadbare pockets,
and not only in the tremorous zone
in which love and martyrdom are twins
like two fire bells,
did you wait for me, my love,
but in the tiniest
sweet duties.
The golden oil of Italy made your nimbus,
saint of kitchen and sewing,
and your tiny coquetry,
that tarried so long at the mirror,
with your hands that have
petals that jasmine would envy,
washed the dishes and my clothes,
disinfected wounds.
My love, to my life
you came prepared
as a poppy and as a guerrilla fighter:
silken is the splendor that I stroke
with the hunger and thirst
that I brought to this world only for you,
and behind the silk
the girl of iron
who will fight at my side.
Love, love, here we are.
Silk and metal, come close to my mouth.


And because Love fights
not only in its burning agriculture
but in the mouths of men and women,
I shall end up by attacking
those who between my breast and your fragrance
try to interpose their dark foot.
They will tell you nothing
worse about me, my love,
than what I told you.
I lived in the meadows
before I knew you
and I did not wait for love but lay
in ambush and jumped upon the rose.

What more can they tell you?
I am not good or bad, just a man,
and they will then add the danger
of my life, which you know
and which with your passion you have shared.
Well, this danger is
danger of love, of complete love
toward all of life,
toward all lives,
and if this love brings
death or prison,
I am sure that your big eyes,
as when I kiss them,
will then close with pride,
with double pride, my love,
with your pride and mine.
But toward my ears they will first come
to undermine the tower
of the sweet and harsh love that binds us,
and they will say: “That one
that you love
is no woman for you,
why do you love her? I think
you could find one more beautiful,
more serious, more profound,
more other, you understand, look at her how flighty,
and what a head she has,
and look at her how she dresses
and so on and on.”
And I in these lines say:
thus I love you, love,
love, thus I love you,
thus as you dress
and as your hair
lifts up and as
your mouth smiles,
light as the water
from the spring upon the pure stones,
thus I love you, beloved.
Of bread I do not ask that it teach me
but that it not fail me
during each day of life.
I know nothing of light, where
it comes from or where it goes,
I only want light to light,
I do not ask explanations
of the night,
I wait for it and it envelops me,
and thus you are, bread
and light and shadow.
You came into my life
with what you brought,
I waited for you,
made of light and bread and shadow,
and thus I need you,
thus I love you,
and all those who want to hear tomorrow
what I shall not tell them, let them read it here,
and let them retreat today because it’s too early
for these arguments.
Tomorrow we shall give them only
a leaf from the tree of our love, a leaf
that will fall upon the earth
as if our lips had made it,
like a kiss that falls
from our invincible heights
to show the fire and the tenderness
of a true love.

From The Captain’s Verses, 1952.

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