April is National Poetry Month and over the next week, we will be celebrating the role of political poetry in our lives. Please send me your favorite political poem—and that might be a poem you have written—to be included in our celebration. [You can submit your selection to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Today, we’ll kick off with a poem by Pablo Neruda. I love Neruda’s work and have since I read my first Neruda poem in high school. Recently, a friend shared “Keeping Quiet/A callarse” with me, a beautiful contemplation that I had never read.
Keeping Quiet / A callarse
Now we will all 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 fisherman 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 perhaps 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 everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.
-By Pablo Neruda
-from Full Woman, Fleshy Apple, Hot Moon
-English translation by Stephen Mitchell
The Secrets of Mary Bowser is our new Politics for the People Book Club selection. Hope you will pick up your copy of the book today.
We will be talking with author Lois Leveen on Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.