Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pablo Neruda, "The Heights of Machu Picchu -- VIII," from Canto General, Trans. Nathaniel Tarn

Come up with me, American love.

Kiss these secret stones with me.
The torrential silver of the Urubamba
makes the pollen fly to its golden cup.
The hollow of the bindweed's maze,
the petrified plant, the inflexible garland,
soar above the silence of these mountain coffers.
Come, diminutive life, between the wings
of the earth, while you, cold, crystal in the hammered air,
thrusting embattled emeralds apart,
oh savage waters, fall from the hems of snow.

Love, love, until the night collapses
from the singing Andes flint
down to the dawn's red knees,
come out and contemplate the snow's blind son.

Oh Wilkamayu of the sounding looms,
when you rend your skeins of thunder
in white foam clouds of wounded snow,
when your south wind falls like an avalanche
roaring and belting to arouse the sky,
what language do you wake in an ear
freed but a moment from your Andean spume?

Who caught the lightning of the cold,
abandoned it, chained to the heights,
dealt out among its frozen tears,
brandished upon its nimble swords --
its seasoned stamens pummeled hard --
led to a warrior's bed,
hounded to his rocky conclusion?

What do your harried scintillations whisper?
Did your sky, rebellious flash
go traveling once, populous with words?
Who wanders grinding frozen syllables,
black languages, gold-threaded banners,
fathomless mouths and trampled cries
in your tenuous arterial waters?

Who goes dead-heading blossom eyelids
come to observe us from the far earth?
Who scatters dead seed clusters
dropping from your cascading hands
to bed their own disintegration here
in coal's geology?

Who has flung down the branches of these chains
and buried once again our leave-takings?

Love, love, do not come near the border,
avoid adoring this sunken head:
let time exhaust all measure
in its abode of broken overtures --
here, between cliffs and rushing waters,
take to yourself the air among these passes,
the laminated image of the wind,
the blind canal threading high cordilleras,
dew with its better greetings,
and climb, flower by flower, through the thicknesses
trampling the coiling lucifer.
In this steep zone of flint and forest,
green stardust, jungle-clarified,
Mantur, the valley, cracks like a living lake
or a new level of silence.

Come to my very being, to my own dawn,
into crowned solitudes.

The fallen kingdom survives us all this while.

And on this dial the condor's shadow 
cruises as ravenous as would a pirate ship.

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