Monday, July 13, 2009

Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other
way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that

[Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon. trans Stephen Mitchell]

I adore Pablo Neruda. I got to know him through three men: the first directed me to one of his poems ("Walking Around"), the second gave me a book of his poems for our first (and only) date, and the third read to me from that book (I forget which). It was a bright, clear summer afternoon and we had just finished making love (I have to say making love instead of having sex because it was that gentle), and while we laid there on the bare floor he reached out and found the book, flipped through a few pages to find a poem (I forget which) and read it out loud in Spanish. It was like listening to water running through a creek. I couldn't understand Spanish, but listening to him read Neruda's poem aroused in me an incomprehensible longing that had to be assuaged; we made love again after his reading.

He was 50. I was 24. He didn't look fifty, and certainly didn't feel himself to be fifty. It was as if he was ageless, even while he was aging. His body was tight and sinewy like a rope of hemp. He was dark and smelled musty, like Salvadorian summer nights (he said, that's where his family came from). He was working on his PhD thesis on India's tantric traditions, a subject he was familiar with not only from his academic studies but also through participation. He had spent many summers in India studying under some guru, resulting in a very rigorous meditation and yoga routine each morning and before bed. I watched him once, when I came to his apartment up high on the hill looking out to the bay. I had came with the intention of having dinner and then stayed to have sex. After sex, I watched him spent half an hour doing contortions with his body, followed by half an hour of meditative silence. I was so incredibly curious and mystified; I walked around him and gauked and waved my hands back and forth as if he was from out of this world, a spaceship--he could very well have been an alien. He had very long hair which he always wore tied in a knot on top of his head except during sex, when he would untie it and for a second I couldn't tell if it was man or woman naked in front of me. His name is Carlos, and he is the most youthful man I've had the pleasure of knowing.

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