The Postman Rings Twice

The last volume in a posthumous series of poems by Pablo Neruda.

Book Cover Perhaps it is inevitable that a giant like the Nobel laureate and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda suffers posthumous paper cuts at the hands of academic scolds such as Ilan Stavans (who mocks and scorns the poet as a Stalinist stooge). Happily, we have also been graced with the posthumous publication of a number of volumes of Neruda’s poetry via the inimitable Copper Canyon Press, most recently World’s End (Fin de mundo), translated by William O’Daly (who has also translated the earlier volumes Still Another Day, The Separate Rose, Winter Garden, The Sea and the Bells, The Yellow Heart, The Book of Questions, and The Hands of Day).

This handsomely printed bilingual edition contains a book-length poem that O’Daly introduces with:
Musically refined and thematically orchestrated, [Fin de mundo] is an often startling historical journey through social and political disillusionment. Much like Canto general, his epic of the South American continent, this late work was impelled by the process of clarifying experience in the cold fires of the imagination, by the pursuit of common cause and brotherhood.

Neruda composes the poem that is World’s End from remembrances, recalling the most difficult and painful events in a century of deflection and denial, a century rife with bloodshed and lies. But it is also a century that for all its horror inspires through the aegis of those whose personal lives intersected with historical events and who faced their isolation and fear to make room for difficult truths, who in their solitude bore responsibility and admitted how much depends on concentric communities, the smaller within the larger, each also a reflection of the other.
Some samples:
The Rose

From one rose to the next I had
so many rosebushes of distance
that I went from one life to the next
not making up my mind about my rage,
and when it was undeniably late,
deadly in love I said goodbye
to every bit of my sad integrity.
I returned seeking that scent,
the red rose of pain
or the yellow of forgetting
or the white of sadness
or the uncommon blue rose:
certainly, we return only in vain
to the country of springtime:
I was so late that the stars
fell onto the road,
and I stopped to harvest
the splendor of the nocturnal wheat.


I learned the why of misfortune
in the school of water.
The sea is a wounded planet
and the breaking is its greatness:
this star fell into our hands:
from the tower of salt
scatters its heritage
of living shadow and furious light.

It has not married the earth.

We still do not understand it.

The Wounded

I let fall the thorns
so no one would ever again be hurt,
and that is why I, naked and wounded,
have arrived at this page.
I let fall the bitternesses
so that no one would suffer,
and they made me suffer so much
I will die from having no defense.
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