Every Day, Matilde (Pablo Neruda)

April 20, 2009

Today, I dedicate this to you: you are long
like the body of Chile, delicate
like an anise flower,
and in every branch you bear witness
to our indelible springtimes:
What day is today? Your day.
And tomorrow is yesterday, it has not passed,
the day never slipped from your hands:
you guard the sun, the earth, the violets
in your slender shadow when you sleep.
And in this way, every morning
you give me life.

*

Neruda’s poems often testify to love’s capacity to breath life into the Other. So too the poem, with its hands in the soil, can sow seeds whose roots rise into wings. He wrote elsewhere that it was his duty (as a poet)

to understand everybody, becoming
     delirious,
weak, unyielding, compromised, heroic, vile,
loving until I wept, and sometimes ingrate,
a savior entangled in his own chains,
all dressed in black, toasting to joy.

(from “For All We Know”)

Neruda’s love poems seem always to pass through the countries he has loved, absorbing the sun and moon, the gardens and the sea, and all the lives he draws to himself only to give them back in his poems. “Here is what I have and what I owe,” he writes somewhere, beckoning the reader to come, to listen, that they might together toast to joy.

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