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I’ll Explain Some Things
By Pablo Neruda

Translated by Jodey Bateman

 
You’ll ask, Where are the lilacs?
And the philosophy dreamy with poppies?
And the rain which kept beating out
Your words, filling them
With water-specks and birds??

I’m going to tell you everything that happened to me.

I lived in a neighborhood
In Madrid with church bells
And clock towers and trees.

From there you could see
The dry face of Castille
Like a sea of leather
My house was called
“The house with the flowers” because around it
Geraniums exploded. It was
A beautiful house
With dogs and kids.

Raúl, do you remember?
Frederico, do you still remember
Under the ground?
Do you remember my house with the balconies
Where the June light soaked your mouth with
The taste of flowers?
Brother! Brother!
The market place of Arguelles, my neighborhood
With its statue like a pale inkwell among
The fish stalls.
It was all
Loud voices, salty commerce,
A deep rumble
Of feet and hands filled the streets,
Meters and liters,
The sharp essence of life,
Fish stacked up,
The texture of roofs in the cold sun in which
The weather-vane grows tired.
Fine, crazily carved ivory of potatoes
Lines of tomatoes to the sea.

Then one morning flames
Came out of the ground
Devouring human beings.
From then on fire,
Gunpowder from then on,
From then on blood.
Bandits with airplanes and Moorish troops
Bandits with gold rings and duchesses
Bandits with black monks giving their blessing
Came across the sky to kill children
And through the streets, the blood of children
Ran simply, like children’s blood does.

Jackals that a jackal would reject
Stones that a dry thistle would bite and spit out
Vipers that vipers would hate!

I have seen the blood
Of Spain rise up against you
To drown you in a single wave
Of pride and knives!

Generals
Traitors
Look at my dead home
Look at broken Spain –
But from each dead house
Burning metal shoots out
Instead of flowers.
From every shell-hole in Spain
Spain will rise.
From every dead child a rifle with
Eyes will rise.
From every crime bullets will be born
Which will one day find a place
In your hearts.

You ask “Why doesn’t your poetry
Speak to us of dreams and leaves
Of the great volcanoes of your native land?”

Come
See the blood along the streets
Come see
The blood along the streets
Come see the blood
Along the Streets!

(Translator’s note: This poem is about the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. Neruda was working in the Chilean Embassy in Spain when the civil war began. In 1936 the Popular Front government, which included Communists, was elected in Spain. All but six officers in the army refused to serve under the Popular Front. With the support of the Catholic Church four Spanish generals led an uprising against the Popular Front. Many of the troops in the uprising were Moorish, from the Spanish colony in Morocco. Also Nazi Germany supported the uprising and tried out its new air force in bombing raids against those regions of Spain still controlled by the Popular Front. The uprising succeeded and General Francisco Franco became dictator of Spain until his death in 1976.)

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