Some Neruda for some sadness

Sadness is knocking on my door this morning. It is the house of me she has come to looking for company.

The mind does its mind-y thing, and, mind’s job is to know. The mind, especially in the throes of anxiety, jumps to conclusions, no matter how unreliable and incomplete the data set might be. And then it looks around all eagle-eyed for evidence, for proof to support its biases: this happened and it means that ___, which means ___,  (wherein, of course, all thisses and thats are scary and sad). And then, right on cue, body follows mind: belly sinks, chest tightens, and a huge lump lodges itself in my throat.

When I open the door for Sad, she is not alone. Worry, like a Greek chorus, is right on her heels, chanting a dirge: “What’s going on, going on, going on? Girl, get your heart back on leash, back on leash, back on leash…”

Oh, what the hell, come in, come in, the motley crew of you. Make yourselves comfy. Can I get you anything? Cup of tea? Shot of bourbon? Crayons? Silk handkerchiefs? Buffy?

[Sad and GreekWorryChorus look at each another, mumble a few things I can’t quite make out, then]: “Neruda,” they say, “we want Pablo Neruda.”

Anything specific in mind?

“Yup,” pipes up Sadness, “the one that starts with ‘Puedo escribir los versos más tristes…'”

Oh, my darling, that one will make me cry.

“How do you think I feel?”

Alright. Here it is: 

And here for you, dear reader, my translation:

Poem XX (by Pablo Neruda)
Translation copyright © 2013, Elisabeth Withaness

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write, for example, “It’s a clear night, and in the distance
stars tremble, blue.”

The night wind circles in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she also loved me.

On nights like tonight I had her in my arms.
I kissed and kissed her under an infinite sky.

She loved me, and sometimes I also loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, fixed eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think that I don’t have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And this line falls on the soul like dew falls on grass.

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 sings. In the distance.
My soul is not quiet about having lost her.

As if to bring her near, my gaze searches for her.
My heart seeks her, and she is not with me.

The very same night that whitens the very same trees.
We, we of then, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, it is true, but oh how I loved her.
My voice would search for wind with which to touch her ear.

Another’s. Surely she is another’s. As before she was my kisses’.
Her voice, her clear body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, it’s true, but maybe I do.
Love is so short and forgetting so long.

Because on nights like this I had her in my arms,
my soul is not quiet about having lost her.

Even if this were the last pain she brings me,
and these were the last lines I write her.

Even though I know, roughly, what this Sad-Scared visit is related to, I really don’t know what anything, really, means. I’ve been at this —watching the mind, being present with whatever arises in me— for long enough to have noticed that freaking the hell out and jumping to conclusions is most unhelpful. Everything is calmed when I can “just” be present with whatever sensations and feelings arise in my body… (“Just” being with things is a Practice. A capital-P Practice that I keep practicing.)

Today, can I let come, let be, what is here? Can I be with it just as it is, so that it can change in whatever way is best?

Copyright © 2013, Elisabeth Withaness. (Don’t steal! But DO feel free to share this post, or the poem translation, with attribution and link. Thank you.)

About elisabethwithaness

Writing out loud at Apropos of Nothing
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