“I have never thought of my life as divided between poetry and politics,” Pablo Neruda said in his September 30, 1969, acceptance speech as the Chilean Communist Party candidate for the presidency. “I am a Chilean who for decades has known the misfortunes and difficulties of our national existence and who has taken part in each sorrow and joy of the people. I am not a stranger to them, I come from them, I am part of the people. I come from a working-class family … I have never been in with those in power and have always felt that my vocation and my duty was to serve the Chilean people in my actions and with my poetry. I have lived singing and defending them.”
Now Let's look for birds! The tall iron branches in the forest, The dense fertility on the ground. The world is wet. A dewdrop or raindrop shines, a diminutive star among the leaves. The morning time mother earth is cool. The air is like a river which shakes the silence. It smells of rosemary, of space and roots. Overhead, a crazy song. It's a bird. How out of its throat smaller than a finger can there fall the waters of its song? Luminous ease! Invisible power torrent of music in the leaves. Sacred conversations! Clean and fresh washed is this day resounding like a green dulcimer. I bury my shoes in the mud, jump over rivulets. A thorn bites me and a gust of air like a crystal wave splits up inside my chest. Where are the birds? Maybe it was that rustling in the foliage or that fleeting pellet of brown velvet or that displaced perfume? That leaf that let loose cinnamon smell - was that a bird? That dust from an irritated magnolia or that fruit which fell with a thump - was that a flight? Oh, invisible little critters birds of the devil with their ringing with their useless feathers. I only want to caress them, to see them resplendent. I don't want to see under glass the embalmed lightning. I want to see them living. I want to touch their gloves of real hide, which they never forget in the branches and to converse with them sitting on my shoulders although they may leave me like certain statues undeservedly whitewashed. Impossible. You can't touch them. You can hear them like a heavenly rustle or movement. They converse with precision. They repeat their observations. They brag of how much they do. They comment on everything that exists. They learn certain sciences like hydrography. and by a sure science they know where there are harvests of grain.
- Pablo Neruda
- Translated by Jodey Bateman