Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


Tempting as it may appear to wrap the poetic pearls from this collection of Neruda’s heartbeats into a warm shawl of erotic wool, do resist it and pause.

These loquacious verses that assemble at the nape of a lover or ripple playfully across the soft mountains of a beloved’s waist, magnify when viewed through the dual lenses of night and water .

I have said that you sang in the wind
like pines and like masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul.

Throughout this collection, there are elements that sprout from these two shores, taking their own boundless attire once left to the ocean of the author’s imagination. I found it interesting to note that Neruda wrote these poems when he was just 19, implying the failures of his political aspirations and love relationships, besides his daughter’s premature death were still far away. Despite none of the later-years’ blackness charring his soul, his propensity to hinge his ode on night and water mirrors a certain yearning that isn’t a slave of reciprocity or longevity. Like the night and the nocturnal swagger, arousal is a reality and yet a mirage, something that will come in certainty but will be short-lived. Like the adaptability and slightness of water, love can superimpose rebuttals and tide over long leaps of unrequited love to reach a state where it will be nothing but itself, complete and calm.

Neruda’s poems personify a charming surrender that fortifies the vulnerability of new love and removes the shame out of the advances that are nothing but a chime before the music.

In the moist night my garment of kisses trembles
charged to insanity with electric currents,
heroically divided into dreams
and intoxicating roses practicing on me.

His hero gets high on the flowers and seasons, on the days and the night, on proximity and distance, on silence and chatter – his hero is the quintessential lover who refuses to let the flame of his emotion die, shielding it with verses after verses of untamable urgency. And with the final poem, one can almost imagine him slumping to the ground, dropping his gaze from his object of love and yet, not allowing the humming of his heart to lay still.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.


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[Image courtesy]


3 thoughts

    1. Thank you, Abubakar! This is, perhaps, his most candid collection. I found a certain flow to the words which didn’t pause to think, if you know what I mean. What other Neruda have you read though?

      Liked by 1 person

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