Monday, August 9, 2010
How many bees are there
in a day?
Which yellow bird
fills its nest with lemons?
Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots??
When the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died in 1973, just shy of his 70th birthday, on his desk were eight manuscripts he was preparing for publication. Though Neruda was ill at the time, he was not at death’s doorstep. Many Chileans (and others) believe the cause of his death was heartbreak. His beloved country had been taken over by a U. S. backed coup d'etat. His friend, Chile’s president, Salvador Allende and many, many others were murdered or disappeared.
One of the manuscript’s Neruda left behind was El libro de preguntas, The Book of Questions. The volume is comprised of playful poem-questions, imaginative queries, such as the ones above, in which the answer isn’t the point. It’s the questions that matter. Copper Canyon Press brought out a beautiful translation by William O’Daly. This book has thrilled me for a long time.
Are the birds happier on cloudy days? Is that the reason they sing more loudly? Why do some of the most gruff looking people become soft-faced and sweet-voiced when approached? Why, knowing this, do I still hesitate to say hello? How long will it take for time and wind to scatter the dead dove’s feathers from the path? How about its tears? How did my nephew Josh, when he was a little boy, learn to walk in the woods and see every tiny thing? Now that he is a becoming a man, does he still? What if my feet had never found their way? How come, when I’m out walking I don’t feel any age—neither old nor young nor anywhere in between? How does the cricket know to stop chirping the moment before I get close? When there’s a will there’s usually a way, so how come when there’s a way there’s not always a will? Bird with the tiny silver bell voice, I’ve never heard before, what’s your name? And what will you eat for dinner? Out in the woods alone, I hear my name called over and over. Who’s calling me? Why do I never find you? Are you the one who brings me back over and over to this place?
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 8:40 AM