Poetry Friday:“Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar - RTS75NH

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect

This has been a long week of trying to make sense of the world we live in.  This week, Paris has been on the mind, as we listen to the horrific details of the events last Friday.  And this week, the right-wing hate rhetoric has also been its own horror show right here in America.  On NPR’s morning news,  I heard a verse of this poem recited in the context of this week…and I have have read it in full many time since.  The very idea of silence and stillness in the entire world sounds desperately needed right now:

“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.


9 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:“Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

  1. Can I tell you how upset I am with this country of ours where we have a presidential front runner who wants to list all Muslims in a database? I’d love to go up to him and say, “Now I will count to twelve/and you keep quiet and I’ll go.”

    I’m definitely willing to go. Things have gotten out of hand and I fear the worst.

  2. I wrote about this week, too, so alarming and upsetting, sad. I just read Neruda at Ruth’s site, and now another wonderful one from him (you). Thanks, Tara, for “perhaps a great silence would/interrupt this sadness.”

  3. Neruda is definitely the poet to turn to this week – “not move our arms so much” – why is that one detail so powerful and perfect? Sigh. The idea that we could all calm down and walk together in the shade….sigh agan. Lots of sighing this week. Thanks for the post, Tara.

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