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Issue 45/46 : July - Dec 2009 : Volume 12 No 1/2

Bob Holman

Poema de Alabanza para Pablo Neruda
     for Songs of Love & Despair: A Tribute to Pablo Neruda,
     World Financial Center, April 15, 2009

O sing, Poet! Or not, your voice croaking with wonder
Where the magic at? You were not born!

In the paper scraps and cigarette ash and paper cups squashed and mashed
In the gravel and glass bits, in the leaf crumbs and in the blue poles and orange peels
A world where Neruda was never born or where he was born Pablo Neruda
And changed his name to Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto

El Vate, the Seer, your eyes distinguish the domain of poetry stretched like garters
Around the thickest live thighs pedaling away in the great
Make Love on a Bicycle Race to the end of the poem,
Where revolution lifts and sings the pure blood of sunset,
The tragic rush of night by night, the terror of neon moonlight
Only you can see by it, el Vate, the Seer

Neruda, all praise your pistol of words, la pistola de palabras, shooting out the stars
Made of overfelt feelings and sincere intentions–here the flesh rules and the body
Is spice salt and sweat–why, one day the road itself started walking!
Luckily Pablo was there, Stop, Road! he cried,
How can I go about my business if you won’t stay still! And the Road answered
And Neruda got it all down, that is his poem about artichokes, five I love yous,
And socks, don’t forget! and the way the sea wave broke
Over his eyebrow became his “Ode to Whitman,” and he left the critics
Strangled by the poem and if only Madonna and Julia Roberts would read
My poems the exhausted ghost of Neruda was heard
Muttering out there in a heap inventing God

Whose hurricane? Yours, Maestro Whose abyss? Yours
Remember the time you said

You were bored of it, bored of being a man. We
Were on the way to the Bowery Poetry Club, and dropped by the tailor’s
You like so much over on Essex Street. Your pants weren’t ready!
That was an explosion right there, and then we walked past
The barber shop and you got a whiff and it was like all hell broke loose.
Could we have a little vacation from things, please? you roared.
No more boulders, no shirts or gardens, insane asylums, merch or contact lenses,
Elevators, I was writing it all down furiously, THIS IS A POEM I was saying to the
Passersby, all of whom were either frightened or pretending nothing was going on,
This is New York after all! You bellowed, an elephant calf on Broadway,
Transformed from human skin into the beast that uses its nose for a ladle–Grab me!
You informed
Me of my destiny, and swing aboard! –your damn Praise Poem is not worth one lash
Of my eye, one corpuscle from my bleeding tongue. Give me a full woman,
You continued, now just trumpeting, and I know the mosquitoes that were
Buzzling around your ear were in love with your protein-saturated blood.

What does it mean, a poem of praise for a poet
For whom the universe was a poem of praise?
This is a vial of poison then, crimson lime and foamy,
A wind-whipped umbrella, poking out cats’ eyes,
And God’s toothpick, and of course the old reliable belly-button
(Not my own), un poco de problema…

¡Yo tengo uno! Más de uno, de hecho un puñado de ellos.
Mi vida es un enorme problema hecho de una millonada de pequeños problemas.
¡Ayúdame problema! ¡Aquí! ¡Ahora mismo!
¡No es problema encontrar un problema! Ven aquí.
Los sacamos del saco, problemas, problemas, problemas.
¿Cómo te atreves a decirme, “Qué no hay problemas”? ¿Bromeas?
¡Problemas, problemas, problemas!

No Problem
Over here!
I got one! More than one, actually, a whole batch of them!
My Life is actually one Big Problem made of a gazillion tiny ones.
Help! Problem! Over here! Right this way!
No problem to find problem! come on over here.
We got em by the sack, problems problems, problems.
How dare you tell me, “No problem.” Are you kidding?
Problem Problem! Problem!

But meanwhile, aiee, there is no meanwhile!
The lush mannerisms of the palm world, the relentless wings of the sea
Call back the melting earth–as you take the poet’s hand, as he grabs the pen,
Together you swing the curves to loops and dots to crossings as the poem emerges
Praise the poem, dancing into being! Praise the words, translations of all things!
Praise all things, manifestations of words! Praise Pablo Neruda! Poet of All Things All
Love All Words’ Worlds! Praise Pablo Neruda as pen dives to translate the word Neruda!

New York

Please read more poems in English in the hardcopy...

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah