“I like for you to be still; it is as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does
not touch you.
It seems as though your eyes had flow away
and it seems kiss had sealed your mouth”
-these are the first few lines from a poem by Pablo Neruda titled “I like for you to be still”.
I had borrowed a small book of his love poems from a friend last week. Started reading it on a night when I wasn’t in a good head-space. So I curled up with this little book on the bed, reading Neruda’s poetry softly to myself. Quite frankly – I didn’t understand what the first one meant, at least not at the first reading. So I read it out two times more and then deduced my own meanings from the lines. They are probably far from what the poet meant.
“I like for you to be still” was the second poem in the book and is my favorite from all the ten. Though short, the end brought a smile to my face and of-course, I read it once again. I moved on to the next poem titled ‘Poetry’, which talks about how the poet was inspired to write his first few lines. There is no tangible muse, the poet claims it was poetry that came looking for him and he knows not from where. For me, I felt like the idea of this poem was to tell the readers that it doesn’t matter what inspires one to write, what matters more is what that writing does to the writer. In this case, Neruda talks about how poetry sets his heart free. I was content with reading just three poems that night and then fell asleep earlier than usual in a long long time. Neruda’s poetry was soothing.
The next day, I texted a friend about how his poetry comforted me when I was feeling low for no reason whatsoever. And she told me how some of her lovers had tried to impress her by reciting Pablo’s poetry.
“Tonight I can write the saddest Lines” she texted and then sent me the link to that poem.
“It’s the most cliche break-up poem but the fact that men make the effort to make you feel guilty, it’s crazy” she added.
Since I hadn’t read all the poems in the book, I didn’t know that the same poem was part of the collection too. It’s poem number nine and beautifully written, a resigned sorrow permeates all the lines. “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” Neruda laments and with that one line he resonates with everyone who has ever loved and lost.
There was just one poem that I thought was a little odd in the collection but since this collection is supposed to have works that were consequential to a film on Neruda called ‘Il Postino’, I don’t have much context. The poem is about a naked mermaid who accidentally stumbles into a bar full of drunks and is treated like dirt; men spit on her, put out their cigarette stubs on her skin. For some reason, it reminded me of a disturbing art experiment, where an artist stood still for hours and said people could do whatever they wanted to do with her. At the end of it, people had disrobed her, groped her, even made cuts on her body. It was horrifying.
The last poem in the book titled “Ode to the Sea” made me nostalgic about the beach city I grew up in, where my parents still stay and I haven’t seen them this year at all. So while Neruda’s poem comforted me in the beginning, they left me longing for home in the end.
It’s a five on five stars from me.