Thursday, March 04, 2010


A couple of days ago I posted an unattributed snippet from Pat Robertson's latest hate-infused drivel (this time directed against the victims of the recent earthquake in Chile), and asked readers to identify the speaker of the quoted passage. I'm not surprised at all that Dave had no trouble recognizing that particular spew as belonging to Pat Robertson. Dave is located in New Orleans, and the good people of that fine city were also accused by Robertson of incurring God's wrath and themselves being to blame for the destruction of their city. That Pat Robertson is one fine Christian, ain't he?

Anyway, as the winner (if that's what it can be called) of my little contest, Dave was more or less forced (he's a polite guy) into picking a topic for me to write about. He could make me write about anything. He went further than was necessary and provided me with a list of topics from which to choose:
Ooh, wait, let me think about this for a minute. So many possibilities... Comic books? Mosh pit etiquette? The poetry of Pablo Neruda? Baboon mating rituals? Your favorite movie? Best concert you've ever seen? Grossest thing you've ever eaten? Stamp collecting?
I can't decide, so I'm going to let you pick one from that list. Or any combination of three.
Look at that list, remember Robertson's quote, and you can see that Dave is a pretty clever guy. I'm clever too, Dave! Given the context, one of those topics is clearly more appropriate than the others...


Pat Robertson's birth was no different than the birth of millions of baboons before him. As dictated by traditional baboon mating rituals...

Haha!! Just kidding!


Having spent more than a few years hanging around universities, I had heard of Pablo Neruda. But really, that's about it. A name. It wasn't until earlier today that I actually found out a little bit about Neruda and read a bit of his poetry for the first time. (I don't dislike poetry or anything like that, I just never seem to get around to reading much of it.) Too bad for me, as it turns out, because from the few poems I've read today I think I quite like where this Neruda guy is coming from.

I don't imagine anything I have to say about Neruda will be especially interesting to anyone already familiar with the man and his work, but...
My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

--Pablo Neruda, "A Dog Has Died"
Look at the above passage... A guy's dog has died. He's buried the dog. He misses the dog. We've all heard songs, read stories and poems, seen TV shows, etc. about this sort of thing. But it's all maudlin crap compared to what Neruda does with it in a few short verses. Some day, he writes, he'll join his dead dog--in the ground, next to the "rusted old machine." The "materialist" doesn't believe in any heaven for himself, but he does believe there's a heaven for dogs, all waiting patiently for their masters to join them. One presumes they'll be waiting until the end of time itself, for at the end of the poem he writes "So now he's gone and I buried him,/and that's all there is to it." The notion of an atheist who believes in a heaven for dogs is, to my mind, only strange if you don't understand what exactly being an atheist entails.

The idea of death is at the core of the few poems I read today. Here's a couple of passages from "Nothing But Death" (I guess the title is a big hint!):
There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.
That's some serious imagery there, folks. "We die going into ourselves." From darkness into darkness... Later,
Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.
Silence, emptiness, nothingness. Later in the poem, "...the face of death is green,/and the look death gives is green," it belongs to the earth; death is everywhere in everything; death is the final destination. (Do you hear, Pat Robertson, you useless piece of shit? The only thing waiting for you when you die is a fucking hole in the ground.) This kind of stuff might seem depressing to some. Grow up.

At this point I'm going to abandon any effort at "explaining" or "analyzing" Neruda's poems, because I don't see that it's necessary. They are what they are and they communicate so directly to me that I just feel like I'm reading the things back to you, the reader of this post. I'm also worried about the translations I've been quoting. I have no idea if they're trustworthy or not. I'm glad that Dave picked this topic, even though I haven't really done it any justice.


  1. Love it. Especially since I totally pulled "Pablo Neruda" out of my ass and had actually never read any of his poetry either, until just now on your blog. I'm not big on poetry myself but this stuff actually is pretty damn good. I'm going to have to do some further research now too. Thanks Rick, and if you're reading this, thanks Pat Robertson!

  2. Justice works by mysterious ways...

    As a "reader of this post", I thank you, Dave - and Robertson, of course!

    Loved the poems!

  3. Dave,
    Hah! You mean I could have done the Pat Robertson baboon bit and you wouldn't have thought I was some ignorant hick? Priceless.
    Nerudo's poems are really good, and well worth checking out.

    "Mysterious ways" indeed!

  4. Nice post! Thank you Rick.
    Neruda is well known in Greece. Here is a reason why.

  5. Psephis,
    Thanks for that link! Things just keep getting more interesting...