Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0384 - Neruda, Co-Conspirator

Cancer leads one to odd connections.

In the news recently, we have been hearing about the reaction of Chileans either mourning or celebrating the death of General Augusto Pinochet who led a junta to depose the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, in 1973. One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Pablo Neruda, a close collaborator of Allende, lay in a hospital bed at the time of the junta dying of prostate cancer. He died within 12 days of the coup d'etat.

Shortly before he died, Neruda's house at Isla Negra was searched by the Chilean armed forces, during which he was quoted as saying:

"Look around - there's only one thing of danger for you here - poetry."

I cannot honestly say that poetry has ever been a passion for me. Nor can I say that it has been a dangerous, subversive element in my life. But my experience with cancer has changed and continues to change me. Even now, I feel more open to possibilities and dimensions of life that never occurred to me before, one of which is the possibility of poetry.

Tonight, as I reflected on a topic for today's blog entry, I turned to those who write about cancer on their own blogs. One of those is Dr Craig Hildreth who today paid tribute to Neruda. The poem he chose is not the one which moves me this evening. Instead, I chose a section from Neruda's The Separate Rose, a book of poems inspired by his 1971 trip to Easter Island.

Today is that day, the day that carrie
da desperate light that since has died.
Don’t let the squatters know:
let’s keep it all between us,
day, between your bell
and my secret.

Today is dead winter in the forgotten land
that comes to visit me, with a cross on the map
and a volcano in the snow, to return to me,
to return again the water
fallen on the roof of my childhood.
Today when the sun began with its shafts
to tell the story, so clear, so old,
the slanting rain fell like a sword,
the rain my hard heart welcomes.

You, my love, still asleep in August,
my queen, my woman, my vastness, my geography
kiss of mud, the carbon-coated zither,
you, vestment of my persistent song,
today you are reborn again and with the sky’s
black water confuse me and compel me:
I must renew my bones in your kingdom,
I must still uncloud my earthly duties.

"I must renew my bones in your kingdom. I must still uncloud my earthly duties."

Those words reach me exactly where I am today, wondering about the future, wandering among thoughts of the present, and remembering the not-too-distant past. I am confused and compelled. From August to today, there has been a rebirth of sorts, and my hard heart does welcome the rain of December. Something is happening to me and I believe my co-conspirator in cancer has more to tell me.

No comments: