Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Morning Reading: "Life is what it is about"

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.


(This poem was cited by the guest Buddhist on last week's NPR show, "On Being" hosted by Krista Tippet. I think it's worth mentioning that Neruda, of course, was not a Buddhist, but a committed socialist, a communist of a sort, an activist and artist not just for himself but for so many others. I am grateful that the show incorporated the poem and sent me back to my Neruda stacks.)


smilingheart said...

beautifully said. thank you

steve said...


Robbi said...

Neruda continually amazes me. His food poems are a small miracle as well.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Buddhist. I am a Nerudist. A naked Chilean poetry reader!

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