Pablo Neruda Cures Insomnia and Insanity

It’s 1:43 am and I can’t sleep…for the third night in a row.

I feel, for lack of a more appropriate word, unlovely. I feel like my mind is running on a rusty motor, one where u have to tug hard on a rope to ignite the engine. Except my engine’s rope is being incessantly pulled by my never-ending negative thoughts. Making mental preparations for any possible bad thing that can happen, making unflattering assumptions about people who I believe will let me down, preparing to throw anything I’ve worked for in the garbage if it doesn’t help now in some way, cursing at the world for doing me wrong even though nothing wrong has actually happened, and declaring my superiority over and over out loud, then taking it back.

This blog is called “relearning loveliness” and, clearly, the emphasis is on the word “relearning” for me. Seriously. Sometimes, when I throw myself into these fits of insanity, I begin to doubt that I ever had anything lovely about me at all.

This is the healthy type of insanity
BUT this is more of how I feel – looks pretty unhealthy to me

So I begin to make a list of why I am lovely…

Can’t think of anything.

Then, I decide to focus on something outside myself, on to something beautiful beyond measure, something that will take my mind off of my craziness completely. Browsing the books on my bedstand, I decide my best bet is Pablo Neruda.

Below I have copied two poems that make my heart sing. As soon as I read them, I magically forgot all of my irrational problems. Their loveliness out shined my made-up misery – it’s incredible:

Sonnet XVII (I do not love you…)

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

Only Death

There are lone cemeteries,
tombs filled with soundless bones,
the heart passing through a tunnel
dark, dark, dark;
like a shipwreck we die inward,
like smothering in our hearts,
like slowly falling from our skin down to our soul.

There are corpses,
there are feet of sticky, cold gravestone,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
like a bark without a dog,
coming from certain bells, from certain tombs,
growing in the dampness like teardrops or raindrops.

I see alone, at times,
coffins with sails
weighing anchor with pale corpses, with dead-tressed women,
with bakers white as angels,
with pensive girls married to notaries,
coffins going up the vertical river of the dead,
the dark purple river,
upstream, with the sales swollen by the sound of death,
swollen by the silent sound of death.

To resonance comes death
like a shoe without a foot, like a suit without a man,
she comes to knock with a stoneless and fingerless ring,
she comes to shout without mouth, without tongue, without throat.
Yet her steps sound
and her dress sounds, silent, like a tree.

I know little, I am not well acquainted, I can scarcely see,
but I think that her song has the color of moist violets,
of violets accustomed to the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death is green,
with the sharp dampness of a violet leaf
and its dark color of exasperated winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
she licks the ground looking for corpses,
death is in the broom,
it is death’s tongue looking for dead bodies,
it is death’s needle looking for thread.

Death is in the cots:
in the slow mattresses, in the black blankets
she lives stretched out, and she suddenly blows:
she blows a dark sound that puffs out sheets,
and there are beds sailing to a port
where she is waiting, dressed as an admiral.

I admit the last poem is about a pretty gruesome subject. I mean, death is no joke, and is not entirely lovely. However, the way Neruda describes ordinary body parts in action is beautiful, “soundless bones, /the heart passing through a tunnel.”

I love the way he personifies death as this woman who can transform herself to become anything that will help her find bodies. “But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,/she licks the ground looking for corpses.”

I find it interesting that “the face of death is green.” Before Neruda, I associated green with positive things like life and love. I even wrote a love poem to this boy once, which spoke of how green is the color of our future together. It all makes sense now why that relationship didn’t end well.

Anyway, I’m satisfied. Tonight (well, this morning) I learned that if you are having trouble finding your own loveliness then read something that is overflowing with it.

Goodnight lovely world!

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