Dead Gallop by Pablo Neruda
There is one line that I repeat inside my mouth, “From where, to where, on what shore?”
It’s not just that it is so catchy. “From where, to where, on what shore?”
It’s inviting. It’s also frustrated - an exasperated sigh.
The famous, immortalized Pablo Neruda. I hadn’t heard of him until a good friend of mine gave me a book of essentials my senior year of high school. He is the mortal writing Aphrodite. He is quoted in movies and was on the lips of people like Che Guevara. He is a lover, but more than that, he was a lover of love.
It’s a question that we all have to deal with. What is love? Whether it pertains to our parents, to our friends, or to strangers whose eyes we believe in.
“From where, to where, on what shore?”
We start forming ideas of love and sometimes we believe that we completely understand what it entails, but more often than not, we’re completely wrong. Like a handful of accumulated sand, it seeps and escapes through our fingers. There are too many permutations, too many gears and wires, and all we can marvel at, gape at what it is.
I don’t confess to understanding it, this love. But Pablo Neruda ends this poem by invoking the “great pumpkins” in the summer. It knows that harvest will come and go - that summer will end, but until then it will stretch out their leaves and drink heavily of the rain that comes today.
By Pablo Neruda
Like ashes, like oceans gathering themselves,
in the submerged slowness, in what’s unformed,
or like hearing from a high place on the road
the cross-echo of church bells,
holding that sound just off the metal,
confused weighing down, turning to dust,
in the same mill of forms, too far away,
remembered or never seen,
and the fragrance of plums rolling to the ground,
which rote in time infinitely green.
That everything, so quick, so lively,
immobile, though, like the pulley, wild inside itself,
those wheels in motors, you know.
Existing like the dry stitches in the seams of the tree,
silent encircling, like that,
all the limbs mixing up their tails.
I mean, from where, to where, on what shore?
The constant swirl, uncertain, so mute,
like the lilacs around the convent,
or death’s arrival on the ox’s tongue,
who falls in jerks, his guard down, his horns trying to
That’s why, in what’s immobile, stopping oneself, to
then, like an immense fluttering of wings, above,
like dead bees or numbers,
ay, that which my pale heart can’t embrace,
in multitudes, in tears scarcely shed,
and human exertions, storms,
black actions suddenly discovered,
like ice, vast disorder,
oceanic, for me who enters singing,
like a sword among the defenseless.
Now then, what is it made of, that surge of doves
there between night and time, like a humid ravine?
That sound, already so long,
which falls striping the roads with stongs,
or better yet, when just one hour
expands without warning, extending endlessly.
Within the ring of summer
the great pumpkins listen once,
stretching out their poignant plants,
of that, of what’s asking so much,
full, dark with heavy drops.