There is No Forgetting (Sonata) by Pablo Neruda, translated by Clayton Eshleman

Someone spoke to me today of passion.

She didn’t speak profoundly.

Who does these days? Only madmen and writers. 🙂

But I heard something profound.

Something about, those who lacking, search for it, and those who filled, seek wildly for someone to share the weight of it.

The… madness of it.

Passion.

Finding passion in living, in life, in the road less ordinary.

Finding magic, even in the mundane.

It made my mind wander to the work of Pablo Neruda.

There are many translations of Neruda’s poems, I think when you read the following you’ll agree Clayton Eshleman’s is clearly the most… haunting and eloquent. There’s a melody, and a picturesqueness to works written in the romance languages, a sense of surrealism and magic realism, that is typically lost when translated to English.

Not so here.

See for yourself:


There is No Forgetting (Sonata)
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Clayton Eshleman

If you ask me where I have been
I have to say “it happens.”
I have to speak of ground darkened by stones,
of the river that enduring destroys itself:
I know only the things that birds lose,
the sea left behind, or my tearful sister.
Why so many regions, why does one day
attach to another? Why does a black night
accumulate in one’s mouth? Why the dead?

If you ask me from where I come, I have to converse with
broken things,
with deeply-embittered utensils,
with great beasts often rotted
and with my own anguished heart.

Those who have passed are not remembered
nor is the yellowish dove, asleep in oblivion,
nor the faces with tears,
the fingers at throats,
nor that which tumbles from the leaves:
the obscurity of an elapsed day,
a day nourished with our sad blood.

Here are some violets, swallows,
everything that pleases us and appears
on saccharine cards in long gowns
around which time and sweetness stroll.

But we must not penetrate beyond those teeth,
must not bite into the husks amassed by silence,
for I do not know what to answer:
there are so many dead,

and so many sea walls cracked by the red sun
and so many heads smashed against boats,
and so many hands that have locked up kisses,
and so many things that I want to forget.

If you like that, first seek medical attention :), 2nd consider picking up a copy of CONDUCTORS OF THE PIT
, it’s filled with great Eshleman translations.