where the writers are
Pablo Neruda's Love Sonnet 43: A Translation

Un signo tuyo busco en todas las otras,
en el brusco, ondulante río de las mujeres,
trenzas, ojos apenas sumergidos,
pies claros que resbalan navegando en la espuma.

De pronto me parece que diviso tus uñas
oblongas, fugitivas, sobrinas de un cerezo,
y otra vez es tu pelo que pasa y me parece
ver arder en el agua tu retrato de hoguera.

Miré, pero ninguna llevaba tu latido,
tu luz, la greda oscura que trajiste del bosque,
ninguna tuvo tus diminutas orejas.

Tú eres total y breve, de todas eres una,
y así contigo voy recorriendo y amando
un ancho Mississippi de estuario femenino. 43.

A sign of you I search in all the others,
in the brusque and undulant river of women . . .
tresses, eyes just barely submerged,
light feet that slide through navigation of the foam.

But quickly then it seems I spot your nails,
oblong and fugitive, the cherry's nieces,
and again its your hair passing, and I believe
I see burning in the water your bonfire portrait.

I looked, but none of them moved to your beat.
None had your light, or the dark clay you brought from the forest.
Not one had your diminutive ears.

You are complete and brief. Of all of them, you are one.
And so with you I go walking, loving
a broad Mississippi, its feminine estuary.

Translation: Terence Clarke

2 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip


To be immersed in a......brusque and undulant river of women . . ....

     I think my wife might raise an objection about this, however.   *sigh*



Comment Bubble Tip


Hello Eric: I remember reading an essay by Gore Vidal in which he took writers to task who substitute adjectives for description or metaphor. The plain old adjective, Vidal implied, is just a piece of dead wood that brings no life, no fire to description.  But he also mentioned Henry James's frequent use of a series of adjectives, lined up one after another before the noun, a series in which each adjective is slightly at odds with the one before and the one after, sometimes even in contradiction to the other adjectives in the line. Here is real invention, a moment when adjectives do indeed enhance one's view of the noun.  The contradictions deepen the description. Neruda does this sort of thing too, throughout these poems, and his "brusco, ondulante río de las mujeres". . ."brusque and undulant river of women". . . is one of his dazzlers. Glad you liked it, and thanks for writing. Best,   Terry