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Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

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Keeping Quiet
Pablo Neruda
Translated by Alastair Reid

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with final inactivity.
Life alone is what matters:
I want nothing to do with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

endnotes

This poem appeared in Extravagaria : A Bilingual Edition by Pablo Neruda, translated by Alasteir Reid, published by the Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. Shared here with profound gratitude.

 

Read more works by Pablo NerudaFind books by this poet • Or view my library

 

Explore poems in pursuit of: silencepeopleliving • Or browse the index

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