“I Explain a Few Things” by Pablo Neruda

I Explain a Few Things

You will ask: ‘And where are the lilacs?
And the metaphysics covered with poppies?
And the rain that often beat down
filling its words
with holes and birds.’

To you I am going to tell all that happened to me.

I lived in a quarter
in Madrid, with bells
with clocks, with trees.

From there could be seen
the dry face of Castille
like a sea of leather.
                    My house was named
the house of the flowers, because everywhere
geraniums exploded: it was
a beautiful house
with dogs and little children.
                    Raúl, you agree?
You agree, Rafael?
                    Federico, you agree
beneath the earth,
you agree about my house with balconies where
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
                    Brother, brother!

was loud voices, salt of wares,
agglomerations of pulsating bread,
the markets of my quarter of Argüelles with its statue
like a pallid inkwell amongst the hake:
the olive oil flowed into spoons
a deep pounding
of feet and hands filled the streets,
metres, litres, sharp
essence of life,
                    stacked fish,
the build of roofs with a cold sun on which
the weathervane tires,
the fine frenzied ivory of potatoes,
tomatoes multiplied down to the sea.

And one morning all of that burned
and one morning the bonfires
leapt from the earth
devouring beings,
and from that moment fire
gunpowder from that moment,
and from that moment blood.

Thugs with planes, and the Moors,
thugs with signet rings, and duchesses,
thugs with black friars blessing
came through the sky to slaughter children,
and through the streets the blood of the children
flowed easily, like the blood of children.

Jackals that the jackal would drive away,
stones that the dry thistle would bite and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would hate!

Opposed to you I have seen the blood
of Spain rise up
to drown you, in a single wave
of pride and knives!
consider my dead house,
consider Spain, broken:
but from every dead house burning metal flows
in place of flowers,
but from every hollow of Spain
Spain rises,
but from every dead child rises a gun with eyes,
but from every crime are born bullets
that will find you one day in the house
of the heart.

You will ask why his poetry
has nothing of the earth, of the leaves,
of the grand volcanoes of his native country?

Come and see the blood through the streets,
come and see
the blood through the streets,
come and see the blood
through the streets!


Note: Federico is Federico Garcia Lorca, the poet friend of Neruda, who was assassinated in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Rafael is the poet Rafael Alberti.


Pablo Neruda, 1904–1973

© 1962 Pablo Neruda
“I Explain a Few Things” from Tercera Residencia
English translation by A.S. Kline

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

More Good Things

Seven Good Things is a weekly list of positivity & creativity. Get it delivered to your inbox every Friday.