I used to wander through life amid
an ill-starred love: I used to keep
a little page of quartz
to rivet my eyes to life.
I bought kindness, I was in the market
of greed, I inhaled envy’s
most sordid waters, the inhuman
hostility of masks and beings,
I lived a sea-swamp world
in which the flower, the lily, suddenly
consumed me in their foamy tremor,
and wherever I stepped my soul slid
toward the teeth of the abyss.
That’s how my poetry was born, barely
freed from the nettles, clutched
above solitude like a punishment,
or its most secret flower sequestered
in the garden of immodesty until it was buried.
And so isolated like the dark water
that inhabits its deep corridors,
I fled from hand to hand, to each
being’s alienation, to daily hatred.
I knew that was how they lived, hiding
half of their beings, like fish
from the strangest sea, and in the murky
immensities I encountered death.
Death opening doors and roads.
Death gliding along the walls.
TRANSLATED BY JACK SCHMITT
FEATURED IN ‘The Poetry of Pablo Neruda’
Online posting taken from here.