“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The hall was filled with audience. They had come from far and near to listen to the old poet. At one end, on the raised podium, sat the old man, head bent and silent. Then somebody asked him to recite a poem. His poem. Words he had written. Raising his head, the old man looked at the people. His strength had gone; he knew he hadn't much longer to live. His memory had faded, there were too many to remember. Looking at the people who waited patiently, with love, to listen to his poem, the old man searched his memory. Then it came, the words in soft Spanish. He spoke of love.

He would have remembered the black hair that flowed in the wind, the red lips that send blood surging through him, those dark eyes that drew his heart and hid it between her breasts, those gentle, caring arms that embraced him and made him forget himself.

The old poet stopped. He couldn't remember the next line. He looked around for her, asking her help. Then – a man rose from the audience and recited the line. Then, another rose and the poet heard the next line. It flowed, from the different corners of the hall. The old man sat up straight and from his eyes flowed tears of happiness....

Couple of weeks ago, at the annual Bodheswaran Memorial Lecture, Sasi Tharoor spoke of those who were politicians as well as writers. Who amidst their duties as world leaders found solace and strength in writing. He spoke of Neruda.

Below, you will find a few poems by Neruda. I write this about him, because I believe any work of art that lay claim to be one, has to be created in love. Even when we speak of hatred or sorrow, we should remember we are talking about love; or the lack of it. All the rest is mere contortions of the mind. The essence of life is love. One can only pity those who cannot love, those who are afraid to love and those who pretend to love.

Ode to Sadness

Sadness, scarab

With seven crippled feet,

Spider web egg,

scramble-brained rat,

bitch's skeleton:

No entry here.

Don't come in.

Go away.

Go back

south with your umbrella,

go back

north with your serpent's teeth.

A poet lives here.

No sadness may

cross this threshold.

Through these windows

comes the breath of the world,

fresh red roses,

flags embroidered with

the victories of the people.


No entry.


your bat's wings,

I will trample the feathers

that fall from your mantle,

I will sweep the bits and pieces

of your carcass to

the four corners of the wind,

I will wring your neck,

I will stitch your eyelids shut,

I will sew your shroud,

sadness, and bury your rodent bones

beneath the springtime of an apple tree.


I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair

Don't go far off, not even for a day

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --

because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far

I'll wander lazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?


From – Twenty Poems of Love

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: ‘The night is fractured

and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.

I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.

Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.

The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.

My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.

We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.

Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,

and these are the last lines I will write for her.


A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.

I buried him in the garden

next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,

but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,

his bad manners and his cold nose,

and I, the materialist, who never believed

in any promised heaven in the sky

for any human being

I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.

Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom

where my dog waits for my arrival

waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,

of having lost a companion

who was never servile.

His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine

withholding its authority,

was the friendship of a star, aloof,

with no more intimacy than was called for,

with no exaggerations:

he never climbed all over my clothes

filling me full of his hair or his mange,

he never rubbed up against my knee

like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,

paying me the attention I need,

the attention required

to make a vain person like me understand

that, being a dog, he was wasting time,

but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,

he'd keep on gazing at me

with a look that reserved for me alone

all his sweet and shaggy life,

always near me, never troubling me,

and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail

as we walked together on the shores of the sea

in the lonely winter of Isla Negra

where the wintering birds filled the sky

and my hairy dog was jumping about

full of the voltage of the sea's movement:

my wandering dog, sniffing away

with his golden tail held high,

face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

as only dogs know how to be happy

with only the autonomy

of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,

and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,

and that's all there is to it.



  1. Good piece. But Bals note that Neruda has exclusive fans ( ha ha).!!!!
    You are right creations cannot happen without love , love for what you do- and trust not those who pretend love

  2. Balan sir your observations are very correct.
    I think, people who pretend to love are the most common genre around.

  3. Happy New year Mr.B. I went home and finally laid my hands on your book and i must say its beautiful , right from its cover.

    Hope this years brings you and your family a lot of happiness and cheer!

    That picture in the beginning of this post is lovely. Like the poems.

  4. the pain in lines is too piercing B.


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