multicultural
does not describe me fully
it is where to start



Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I Write


The following poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda describes well the nearly mystical impulse that drives me to write fiction. The Nobel-Prize-winning poet is speaking of the obligation of a poet, but what he describes applies equally well to me. The English translation is provided first, followed by the original in Spanish.


Poet's Obligation

To whoever is not listening to the sea this Friday
morning, to whoever is cooped up
in the house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weight of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its crown
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking “How can I reach the sea?”
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of seabirds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.


Deber del poeta

A quien no escucha el mar en este viernes
por la mañana, a quien adentro de algo,
casa, oficina, fábrica o mujer,
o calle o mina o seco calabozo:
a éste yo acudo y sin hablar ni ver
llego y abro la puerta del encierro
y un sin fin se oye vago en la insistencia,
un largo trueno roto se encadena
al peso del planeta y de la espuma,
surgen los ríos roncos del océano,
vibra veloz en su rosal la estrella
y el mar palpíta, muere y continúa.

Así por el destino conducido
debo sin tregua oír y conservar
el lamento marino en mi conciencia,
debo sentir el golpe de agua dura
y recogerlo en una taza eterna
para que donde esté el encarcelado,
donde sufra el castigo del otoño
yo esté presente con una ola errante,
yo circule a través de las ventanas
y al oírme levante la mirada
diciendo: cómo me acercaré al océano?
Y yo transmitiré sin decir nada
los ecos estrellados de la ola,
un quebranto de espuma y arenales,
un susurro de sal que se retira,
el grito gris del ave de la costa.

Y así, por mí, la libertad y el mar
responderán al corazón oscuro.

1 comment:

Patty Godinez said...

Judith, thank you for posting this poem! It really encourages me to continue to write. I REALLY enjoy reading your blog! If you are near Orange County, there is an amazing play about Puerto Rican activist Lolita Lebron, playing at the Breath of Fire theatre in Santa Ana, Ca. It's REALLY good! Email me for more details. pattygodinez@aol.com You are an amazing and beautiful writer! Thank you for sharing!!! "The Blowing Branches."