Friday, December 30, 2011

Poetry Friday: Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

I am joining Poetry Friday late today because we have been driving home from the beach (where, by the way, we had such a great time). In honor of the beach, and also because my daughter gave me a book of Pablo Neruda poetry for Christmas (I read some of these poems aloud while we were at the beach and we joked about how many of them contained the word "naked"), I offer this mermaid poem, followed by a video with Ethan Hawke reading the poem. The text and video have two different translations. I believe the one on the video is the same as what I have in my book, by Alastair Reid. I don't know who did the other translation.

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks
by Pablo Neruda

All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.

Pablo Neruda

Mermaids in Haiti have vodou connections, but the one in this poem is simply a beautiful, ethereal being who is not understood by the boorish people around her. Like many of the poems in my new book, Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, this one is mysterious but lovely.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Lovely, but so sad! I loved that she was cleansed by the river, that mysterious and beautiful mermaid. And lucky you for the new volume of poetry to savor in the new year!