Vol. 11, No. 2,586W - The American Reporter - February 20, 2005

Other Voices
FROM PABLO NERUDA, THE HAUNTING VOICE OF WOUNDED SPAIN

by Paz Cohen
American Reporter Correspondent
Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON -- Since the bombing in Spain is still on the front page, I'm guessing it isn't too late to pass along part of a Pablo Neruda poem that could have been written last week.

On the day of the Madrid bombing, I sent the following, bilingual email to a lot of folks. The poem it extracts - "Allow Me to Explain", from the collection "Spain in My Heart" - is one that was used frequently in protests against Pinochet and other dictators. It includes the line "Treacherous generals/Look at my dead house," and you can see the "treacherous generals" on many posters from the time.

Coincidentally, it's the 100th anniversary of Neruda's birth this year, and although his birthday isn't until July 12, there's a months-long centennial commemoration already underway in various parts of the world; the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C., had their event last night.

Here's the email I sent the day of the Madrid train bombings:

Subject: ESPAÑA EN EL CORAZÓN - SPAIN IN MY HEART

Lista provisional de heridos - Provisional list of wounded: http://www.madrid112.org/not00.asp?id=206 ¡Qué horror! After the carnage... Al igual que muchos de Uds, no pude sino recordar este poema de Neruda, que tantas veces citamos, y en su origen... en Madrid, en 1936 ...

de Espana en El Corazon

Yo vivía en un barrio de Madrid, con campanas, con relojes, con árboles. (...) Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo y una mañana las hogueras salían de la tierra devorando seres, y desde entonces fuego, pólvora desde entonces, y desde entonces sangre. (...)

Like many of you, I couldn't help thinking of this Neruda poem, which we quoted so many times, and of its origins in Madrid, in 1936.

from Spain In My Heart

I lived in a neighborhood in Madrid, with bells, with clocks, with trees. (...) And one morning, it was all on fire and one morning bonfires rose from the earth devouring people, and since then fire, gunpowder since then, and since then blood. (...)

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas, de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles, venid a ver la sangre por las calles, venid a ver la sangre por las calles!

You will ask why his poetry doesn't speak to us of dreams, of leaves, of the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come see the blood in the streets, come see the blood in the streets, come see the blood in the streets!

You can hear Neruda himself read it in Spanish, here: Aquí, Neruda mismo lee -- Explico Algunas Cosas:
http://www.chilevive.cl/homenaje/neruda/explico.shtml

Paz Cohen is former staff member of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights for the Caribbean.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.