* translation 1/3 on the friday influence

(from The Book of Questions – Pablo Neruda) *

 

IV.

How many churches in Heaven?

 

Why does the shark not attack
the indifferent sirens?

 

Does smoke chat with the clouds?

 

Is it true that all hopes
should be watered with dew?

 

XXIV.

 

Is 4 the same 4 for all?
Are all sevens equal?

 

When the prisoner thinks of sunlight
is it the same that lights your way?

 

Have you ever considered what color
the April of the infirm might be?

 

What occidental kingdom
flies these flags of poppies?

 

***

This week, The Friday Influence presents the work of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

The above excerpts are from The Book of Questions, a charming book in which Neruda riffs on various subjects, always grasping for and breaking into image as well as various profundities.

For example: “Does smoke chat with the clouds?” places “smoke” and “cloud” in the same line, a visual already, and then goes deeper with “chat” – I see smoke rising into a sky and hovering, kinda like you do when you’re waiting for your place of work to be unlocked, a situation which leads to small talk amongst people who might normally not talk much.

The whole book is literally filled with questions, no answers.  Why ruin a good question with an answer?  What Neruda gets away with – and here I will avow that much of a poet’s job is to see what they can get away with – is both inspiring and engaging.  The power of a good question like a coin in your hand.

***

As the title of this post suggests, I am trying my hand at translation.  I literally grabbed the book off my shelf and went for it.  I plan to share two more sets of translation in the weeks ahead.

***

In other news, there have been some rejection letters from poetry magazines.

What the hell is that about?

***

Here’s one last bit from Neruda:

 

XXXIII.

 

And why is the sun such a bad friend
to someone walking in the desert?

 

And why is the sun so friendly
in the hospital garden?

 

Are these birds or fish here
in nets of moonlight?

 

Was it where they lost me
that I was able to find myself?

 

***

Happy questioning?

J

* translated by Jose Angel Araguz (word to your Spanish-English dictionary.)

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