Guest poem submitted by Amulya Gopalakrishnan:
(Poem #816) I'm Explaining a Few Things
You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs? and the poppy-petalled metaphysics? and the rain repeatedly spattering its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds? I'll tell you all the news. I lived in a suburb, a suburb of Madrid, with bells, and clocks, and trees. From there you could look out over Castille's dry face: a leather ocean. My house was called the house of flowers, because in every cranny geraniums burst: it was a good-looking house with its dogs and children. Remember, Raul? Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember from under the ground my balconies on which the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth? Brother, my brother! Everything loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises, pile-ups of palpitating bread, the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake: oil flowed into spoons, a deep baying of feet and hands swelled in the streets, metres, litres, the sharp measure of life, stacked-up fish, the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which the weather vane falters, the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes, wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea. And one morning all that was burning, one morning the bonfires leapt out of the earth devouring human beings -- and from then on fire, gunpowder from then on, and from then on blood. Bandits with planes and Moors, bandits with finger-rings and duchesses, bandits with black friars spattering blessings came through the sky to kill children and the blood of children ran through the streets without fuss, like children's blood. Jackals that the jackals would despise, stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out, vipers that the vipers would abominate! Face to face with you I have seen the blood of Spain tower like a tide to drown you in one wave of pride and knives! Treacherous generals: see my dead house, look at broken Spain : from every house burning metal flows instead of flowers, from every socket of Spain Spain emerges and from every dead child a rifle with eyes, and from every crime bullets are born which will one day find the bull's eye of your hearts. And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry speak of dreams and leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets. Come and see The blood in the streets. Come and see the blood In the streets!
Translated by Nathaniel Tarn. Here's one for all those who decry politically engaged literature as being aesthetically compromised: Pablo Neruda. For some of the most wonderful poems that combine Art and heart. He wrote some of the most burning, gorgeous lines but what powers his poetry is always his politics. Unlike Nabokov's idea that 'the sole purpose of art is aesthetic bliss', he fiercely believes that poems can make new worlds. He described the first of his poetry readings at a trade union meeting as 'the most important fact of my literary career'. This particular poem combines generosity, fight, painfulness... and lyricism, even as it shows up the absurdity of 'poppy-petalled metaphysics'. There's an aggressive overabundance - the spilling over of the merchandise, building up to the rush of violent visual images, (black friars spattering blessings) and then, the unexpected, bludgeoning moments of tenderness (the house of geraniums, the children's blood). Neruda's surreal, sure, but it isn't swimmy, soft-focus surrealism. His images cohere emotionally, with the energy of his anger, all the way up to the terrible finality of 'come out and see the blood on the streets'. The poem burns clean. Amulya.