A little note before you read – I didn’t anticipate it being so long before I got to part two of my April poetry posts. We were on vacation last week, and I intended to keep writing because down time should mean more free time for writing, right? Turns out I massively underestimated the exhaustion brought on by chasing little munchkins through hiking trails, museums, trampoline parks, arts festivals and an assortment of dinosaur-related things. So not much physical rest happened, but lots of soul rest, which is usually the more important kind of rest anyway. And now, back to normal. Or at least trying.
The night I met Pablo was a Friday night somewhere in the first half of my college years. I was spending Friday nights as I often did – perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, coffee in hand. (I do realize this is not the conventional way college students spend Friday nights, but when you’re an introvert spending insanely large amounts of time around people 7 days a week, it’s best for everyone’s sanity if you hide out in a bookstore or library at least one night a week. Possibly two.)
I had already selected an anthology of love poems to purchase and was glancing through it when I came across “Tonight I Can Write“. Although I don’t distinctly recall, there’s an excellent chance I sank into a chair and read it over and over again. (If you haven’t read this before, just go drink it in right now.) I love this poem for a gazillion reasons. The imagery. The emotional tug of war. The sweet memories mingled with the reality of loss. The letting go. It aches. It sings. I love it.
Who knows how many times I read it before the thought occurred to me to see if this was a “one-hit wonder” for Pablo Neruda or if the rest of his poetry was equally wonderful. I found a volume of his work called The Captain’s Verses, and oh my heart – I was not disappointed. Of course I bought it immediately and have read it a thousand times over. (Until it recently seems to have been lost when we moved or maybe I lent it to someone and forgot. I don’t know. For now, I’m heartbroken about being bound to such grown up things as budgets, but as soon as there is wiggle room for books, it will be my first purchase.)
Sometimes I read his poems in Spanish, even though I can only understand a handful of words and phrases. It doesn’t matter. The words still flow like music. And in English? Pablo transformed me as a writer, as a poet. His words are raw and earthy and mesmerizing. Even the handful that I’m not so crazy about have challenged me and stretched me because he pairs thoughts and images and descriptions in ways I would never have considered. On more than one occasion, I have quoted him or been inspired by him. I learned to do so much more with phrasing and line breaks. I learned that it is ok to have certain images or ideas you are pulled towards again and again (for him, it seems to be the sea; for me, it is the night sky). When I am ready to give up on words, his poems make me want to write again.
The poem below is one I wrote during college. I needed to process a letting go, and I borrowed the title from a line in “Tonight I Can Write”. (And I am choosing to share one of my own today because I couldn’t decide which Neruda poem was my favorite. Just google him. Read them all!)
Forgetting is So Long
The dream of you still haunts me,
though I’m pretending not to see it.
The melancholy song of you
still lingers in the evening air,
and so I hum another nameless tune,
slowly waltz away.
I will not remember you,
even as I glance at your familiar face.
The bittersweet ideas of you
still swirl around my spinning head,
and so I’ll hang a different memory there,
hope you fade away.