poem of the week: Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write”.

      
     All my memories of holidays as a teen are framed by one album: Sixpence None The Richer’s selftitled. It was one of my first albums, and it was on tape, cuz my parents refused to have a cd-player in the car :P. But every holiday, on our way from the Netherlands to France, my brothers, sister and I would listen to that album, from the beginning to the end, and turn around the tape to listen to it again. 
       As a result, Leigh Nash’ ethereal voice comes back to me every now and then, singing “hug him like a brother/ kiss her like a sister” (“Sister, Mother”) or “you can’t marry our heaven to your hell/we, Prolific and you the Devourer” (“Waiting Room”). One of my favorite songs on that album was “Puedo Escribir” an odd entrancing song in which Leigh Nash sings in her bright and ice-like voice some lines in Spanish from Pablo Neruda‘s poem of the same title (published in his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.) This song, this poem and the power of the both are probably some of the reasons why I (try to) write poetry.

This is the entire poem, from the Penguin translation by W.S. Merwin. The picture is taken from the site of the Dutch weather institute.

Tonight I Can Write

By Pablo Neruda (1904 –1973)


Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “the night is starry

and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”


The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.


Tonight I can write the saddest lines,

I loved her and sometimes she loved me too.


Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.


She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.


Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.


To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.


What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.


That is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.


My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.

My heart looks for her and she is not with me.


The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of that time, are no longer the same.


I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.


Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.


I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.


Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.


Though this be the last pain she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

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One Response

  1. ahh thank you.

    I love that album (haven’t listened in a while) and have wondered long about many of the lyrics on there. They resonate (or did) but I’m never entirely sure why.

    It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

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