Pablo Neruda’s Keeping Quiet

Keeping Quiet

 

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

 

This one time upon the earth,

let’s not speak any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

 

It would be a delicious moment,

without hurry, without locomotives,

all of us would be together

in a sudden uneasiness.

 

The fishermen in the cold sea

would do no harm to the whales

and the peasant gathering salt

would look at his torn hands.

 

Those who prepare green wars,

wars of gas, wars of fire,

victories without survivors,

would put on clean clothing

and would walk alongside their brothers

in the shade, without doing a thing.

 

What I want shouldn’t be confused

with final inactivity:

life alone is what matters,

I want nothing to do with death.

 

If we weren’t unanimous

about keeping our lives so much in motion,

 

if we could do nothing for once,

perhaps a great silence would

interrupt this sadness,

this never understanding ourselves

and threatening ourselves with death,

perhaps the earth is teaching us

when everything seems to be dead

and then everything is alive.

 

Now I will count to twelve

and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

 

-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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