Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Neruda poem I like


I'm not a Neruda fan, since it seems most of his poems are self-referencing slices of two-faced baloney, but recently a friend posted a small gem he’d written , Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market I was rather taken with. It shines because it is very unlike Neruda’s typical style, a murmuring buzz suggesting revelation but revealing, in fact, mere appetite for more consumption. This poem is splendid, and reads as if it were composed by another poet altogether.Better than most of his work manages to scan; he concentrates on an image out of himself rather than examining his own vanity for a change, and winds up rendering something that seems a true poetic vision, perceptions seeming captured "in themselves", free of an intruding ego. Would that his other poems had these same virtues.

Among the market greens,
a bullet
from the ocean
depths,
a swimming
projectile,
I saw you,
dead.

All around you
were lettuces,
sea foam
of the earth,
carrots,
grapes,
but
of the ocean
truth,
of the unknown,
of the
unfathomable
shadow, the
depths
of the sea,
the abyss,
only you had survived,
a pitch-black, varnished
witness
to deepest night.

Only you, well-aimed
dark bullet
from the abyss,
mangled
at one tip,
but constantly
reborn,
at anchor in the current,
winged fins
windmilling
in the swift
flight
of
the
marine
shadow,
a mourning arrow,
dart of the sea,
olive, oily fish.
I saw you dead,
a deceased king
of my own ocean,
green
assault, silver
submarine fir,
seed
of seaquakes,
now
only dead remains,
yet
in all the market
yours
was the only
purposeful form
amid
the bewildering rout
of nature;
amid the fragile greens
you were
a solitary ship,
armed
among the vegetables
fin and prow black and oiled,
as if you were still
the vessel of the wind,
the one and only
pure
ocean
machine:
unflawed, navigating
the waters of death.


Skinny lines or no, the is packed with sudden feints, shifts and sly insinuations; Neruda uses his senses to see and to compare things to other things and so suggest a world large and mysterious and beautiful that exists outside his personality. The modesty is appealing,and the poetry is more potent. Better than most of his work manages to scan; he concentrates on an image out of himself rather than examining his own vanity for a change, and winds up rendering something that seems a true poetic vision, perceptions seeming captured "in themselves", free of an intruding ego. Would that his other poems had these same virtues. Perhaps you do need to be a woman to find a male obsessing over the magnitude of his own responses to the world. He writes as if he's in a constant state of arousal, spurred on by the seamless sensuality that makes up each surface, skin or material, he sets his hands upon. But I find this to be so much hokum and shtick much the same that I find an awful lot of Whitman's poems to be little more than the results of a machine left alone to generate variations of a self enamored template. Whitman, of course, wrote reams of verse, and far enough of it transcends the less convincing echolations of his reverberating self esteem that we may claim him as an unimpeachable genius. Neruda, though, does not write beyond his own skin often or long enough; the world is not something he discovers anew but instead a mirror that returns not himself but his admiring gaze. Too much schtick, too little light.