By Robert Kahn
Nothing I can say about this election would do anyone any good.
I have translated Pablo Neruda’s poem, “Sadness in Families,” from his 1935 collection, “Residence on Earth.”
The final stanzas express my feelings pretty well. If the first stanza doesn’t make sense, well, press on. Try to get through it. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
Here is the poem.
I keep a blue flask,
inside it an ear and a portrait:
When the night forces
feathers of owl,
when the harsh cherry
breaks its lips and threatens
with shells that the oceanic wind penetrates
I know there are great buried plains,
waters blue for battle,
veins of retreats and camphor,
fallen things, medals, tendernesses,
parachutes and kisses.
It’s nothing but the step of one day toward another,
a single bottle cast on the sea,
and a restaurant where roses arrive,
a dining hall abandoned like a spine: I refer
to a shattered cup, a curtain, the core
of a deserted room where a river flows
dragging stones. A house
built on foundations of rain,
a house of two floors, with obligatory windows
and strictly faithful ivy.
I leave in the afternoon and I arrive
full of mud and death,
dragging the earth and its roots
and its vague belly in which
cadavers sleep with wheat,
with metals and collapsed elephants.
And over everything there is a terrible
with broken cruets
and vinegar running under the chairs,
and an arrested moonray,
something obscure, and I search
for a comparison within me:
perhaps a store surrounded by the sea
and torn dishcloths dripping brine.
It’s only an abandoned lunchroom,
and around it are submerged factories,
woods that only I know,
because I am sad, and I travel,
and I know the earth, and I am sad.