The Day Neruda Died
Just a few days after the
coup d’état, Poetry died in a house
nestled in the mountains of Santiago.
Twenty years later only,
they buried his body there,
in Isla Negra, according to his last
will and desire, close
to his home harboring
on a dune where blue waves
scour Humboldt’s icy
currents. Surrounded by
all things maritime, ships in
bottles, maps, beloved
figureheads, that he collected
bulimically, a few steps away from
his very bedroom with a
tin-plate roof that reminded him of
his childhood in the Southern town of
Temuco lashed by harsh winds and
rain where he spent endless hours penning lines
enchanted by the falling drops on the tin rooftops
in the arms of the mighty Andes.
The day he died, five-hundred, maybe
six-hundred young men stood there in front of
Pablo’s house despite the hundreds of
Pinochet’s secret agents taking snapshots. When
the coffin left all of them raised their hand to the sky,
singing the Internationale. Everybody knew that
that very evening somebody would have knocked at
their doors, leading them away to Dawson Island as political
prisoners—to never return. This did not prevent them.
Nobody will prevent poetry from living on. Neither regimes
nor politics and, not even Death dancing his last Chilean Totentanz
amid rustling red leaves on an Autumn day of 1973. Pablo es aún vivo.*
*Pablo is still alive
The Birds Have Gone
The birds have all gone.
They gathered to watch
the Nightingale lie
motionless on the
ground and fled to mourn.
The country is so silent now.
I hold you in my hands.
Your cold feathers will be my shield.
Your chant will be my weapon.
This land will always be your land
and I will sing your songs forever.
(for Pete Seeger)
In Che’s Heavy-Duty Boots
I did dream of you Latin America,
unknown land of my spirit,
as I follow the trail that Poderosa –
the Mighty One – left along your
backbone: St. Martín, Bariloche,
the pampas and the deserts.
I want to tread your soil and your
soul penniless, a motorcycle in
my heart wearing Che’s unlaced heavy-
duty boots. The taste of brewed
yerba mate in the mouth will last long,
as the poverty of people filling my eyes.
There is Chile. I’ll pass by as a busy
pilgrim along Neruda’s door. I
won’t knock but I will carry his
words in my backpack. And, I too will
spend some days in leper-hospitals
to recall that poets and revolutionaries
must always put their fingers in the wounds
to be able to learn how to be sufferers.