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Winter 2019/20



Pedro Mir’s Hurricane Neruda (section 9)
Tr Jonathan Cohen

"Hurricane Neruda" won the Annual Poetry Award given by the Dominican Republic's Secretary of Education, in 1975, the year of the poem's original publication. Mir wrote this elegy in response to the death of Pablo Neruda (1904–1973) and the military dictatorship that followed the coup in Chile and the associated death of its democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, twelve days before the poet died, possibly murdered.


Pedro Mir
            tr Jonathan Cohen

And when the copious fermenting fruit
fills the wooden vat and the smiling girl
emerges from it—and in the tassels

of sugarcane fields, drop by drop
sweat is distilled—from the people’s
throat comes their clearest note

that reaches Latin America and sings.
And all of a sudden Hurricane Neruda
arises from the neruda whirlwind.

And in Southeast Asia the sharp
contradiction shatters history
and in neruda night neruda sun:

triumph in life and glory in death.
And in Europe a sowing of guns
with a neruda carnation on victory day.

My heart and the heart of thousands
of hearts believe in your poetry,
our Father who keeps an eye on Chiles

now and in the future. Poetry,
your poetry, announced that Captain
Bolívar, the people’s captain, would return

every hundred years with Hurricane
Neruda whirling around his head, and here are
a hundred years of Chile and your death.

Another two centuries will pass as well.
If not it’s because tonight the whole world
keeps coming back to your death, amen.

From the farthest tip of the blade,
from the copper mines and molten
iron in the crucible and the first

of the metals and then silver,
passing the manganese and bauxite,
a belt of hands grows long

and gathers in your exact violence,
and conveys in human terms
the diplomacy of dynamite.

And on all the roads your hands
emerge and open to a better world.
And amid the tassels and future grains

and sweating hands and sweat,
there’s a Chile that turns to cataclysm
and a Chile that returns to splendor.

A more neruda Chile in the abyss,
more Chilean in fervor and more neruda
and universal than the universe itself,

under the grey neruda consternation.
And all of a sudden firm Hurricane
Neruda sets off a neruda blast of air
and the Captain is back, singing


Y cuando ardiendo la fruta se prodiga
copiosamente en el tonel y brota
la muchacha sonriente y en la espiga
de los cañaverales, gota a gota
se destila el sudor, de la garganta
del pueblo sale su más limpia nota
que llega a América Latina y canta.
Y de repente el huracán Neruda
del vórtice neruda se levanta.
Y en el sudeste asiático la aguda
contradicción despedaza la historia
y en la noche neruda el sol neruda:
triunfo en la vida y en la muerte gloria.
Y en Europa una siembra de fusiles
con un clavel neruda en la victoria.
Mi corazón y el corazón de miles
de corazones creen en tu poesía,
Padre nuestro que estás mirando Chiles
presentes y futuros. La poesía,
tu poesía, anunció que el capitán
Bolívar capitán del pueblo, volvería
cada cien años con el huracán
Neruda envuelto en la cabeza y cien
años de Chile y de tu muerte van.

Otros dos siglos pasarán también.
Si no es porque esta noche el mundo entero
torna y retorna de tu muerte, amén.
Del más remoto punto del acero,
de la cuenca del cobre y de la nata
del hierro en el crisol y del primero
de los metales y después la plata,
pasando el manganeso y la bauxita,
un cinturón de manos se dilata
y en tu exacta violencia se da cita,
y traspasa en los términos humanos
la diplomacia de la dinamita.
Y en todos los caminos brotan manos
tuyas y abiertas a un mundo mejor.
Y entre la espiga y los futuros granos
y las manos que sudan y el sudor,
hay un Chile que torna al cataclismo
y un Chile que retorna al resplandor.
Un Chile más neruda en el abismo,
más chileno en la fiebre y más neruda
y universal que el universo mismo,
bajo la gris consternación neruda.
Y de repente el sólido huracán
Neruda, emprende el vértigo neruda
y regresa cantando el Capitán.

Excerpted from Pedro Mir's Two Elegies of Hope (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019).

Pedro Mir (1913–2000) is recognized as the Dominican Republic's foremost literary figure of the twentieth century. In 1982 the Dominican Congress named him National Poet, and on the occasion of his death, the president of the Dominican Republic declared three days of national mourning and told his nation: "Don Pedro will always be with us because his thinking was transcendent."

Jonathan Cohen is a poet, translator, essayist, and scholar. In addition to Pedro Mir, he has translated Ernesto Cardenal, Enrique Lihn, Octavio Paz, and Roque Dalton, among others. He is the translator (with Donald D. Walsh) of Mir's Countersong to Walt Whitman and Other Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2018).


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