“A Callarse” or ‘Keeping Quiet’ – Pablo Neruda

The great Chilean poet/activist Pablo Neruda  (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973) is considered to be one of the most beloved poets of all-time around the world.  His poetry spoke of love, longing, and nature as well as politics.  Often, those worlds would meet in his poems.

Neruda held many political positions for short terms, including the Chilean Communist Party.  He was staunchly against prioritizing business interests over the people.  But the Cold War began, splitting many of the nations around the world into ‘for or against’ mentalities–between the capitalist market elites and the socialist/marxist elites.  Propaganda in all nations began against the ‘other.’  As with most countries, propaganda would work to create the enemy despite that fact that many knew nothing of the other system and what it was.  Propaganda created fear and suspicion of  ‘the other’ system.  Also, one would believe that their own systems (for instance, if one is a wealthy businessperson, one wouldn’t want to lose that wealth, prestige and power) needed to be maintained.  However, the dissatisfaction of the working classes and unions which offered them some sort of empowerment against the corporations and governments, were a threat to those establishments.  Those who were journalists, defense lawyers, artists, were all under threat in this war.  Pablo Neruda’s ‘art’ became an act of treason.

In 1948, the ultra-conservative leader of Chile outlawed all forms of communism, an arrest warrant was issued for Neruda.  Neruda’s friend hid him well in several places around Chile before he eventually went into exile through the rugged mountain ranges into Argentina.  Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971.  Soonafter, Allende invited Pablo Neruda to speak.

The CIA and the business powers did not like this kind of government, of course.  Those who follow the historical moments of the world and the several crisis that have to do with our historical present, understand and know that the United States engineered a coup of that government (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/nsaebb8i.htm) with Augusto Pinochet as local leader to be set-up as the next.   Elite businesses and right-wing groups joined forces in many nations across the world, including the US, creating propoganda against all leftists during and shortly after the Cold War.  The Cold War, as it was called, created an illusory world of dual styles of politics that dominated the imagination from the late 40s through the 1960s.  There were the Western capitalist interests, and on the ‘other side’ were the communists who were more interested in non-hierarchical societies.  On both sides, their motto was equality.

During the violence in the offices, Allende died of a gunshot wound.  On the very same day of the coup d’etat,  Neruda was rushed to the hospital after collapsing and three days later, died of heart failure.  Although on paper he died of heart failure, the people the world over who loved him and those closest to him as well, spoke of him dying of a broken heart.

Those that knew him, were usually surprised at how he and his wife second wife Delia were simple, warm, generous and spontaneous people.  Many had known of him as a great literary figure with great political minds.  They began to understand that their writings were for the love of the people and life and nature, not writings and speeches for political cleverness and gain.

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