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Statues | Poem by Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda
translated by Jodey Bateman


   The pigeons visited Pushkin 
   And pecked at his melancholy 
   The gray bronze statue talks to the pigeons 
   With all the patience of bronze. 

   The modern pigeons 
   Don't understand him 
   The language of birds now 
   Is different. 
   They make droppings on Pushkin 
   Then fly to Mayakovsky. 
   His statue seems to be of lead. 
   He seems to have been 
   Made of bullets. 
   They didn't sculpt his tenderness - 
   Just his beautiful arrogance. 
   If he is a wrecker 
   Of tender things 
   How can he live among violets 
   In the moonlight 
   In love? 

   Something is always missing in these statues 
   Which are fixed rigidly in the direction of their times. 
   Either they are slashed 
   Into the air with a combat knife 
   Or they are left seated 
   Transformed into a tourist in a garden. 
   And other people, tired of riding horseback 
   No longer can dismount and eat there. 
   Statues are really bitter things 
   Because time piles up 
   In deposits on them, oxidizing them 
   And even the flowers come to cover 
   Their cold feet. The flowers aren't kisses. 
   They've also come there to die. 

   White birds in the daytime 
   And poets at night 
   And a great ring of shoes surrounding 
   The iron Mayakovosky 
   And his frightful bronze jacket 
   And his iron unsmiling mouth. 

   One time when it was late and I was almost asleep 
   On the edge of the river, far off in the city 
   I could hear the verses rising, the psalms 
   Of the reciters in succession. 
   Was Mayakovsky listening? 
   Do statues listen? 

translator's note:

    Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet from Chili wrote this poem on a visit to Moscow. The poem speaks of the statues of Pushkin the great, 19th century Russian poet and Mayakovsky, the poet of the Russian Revolutionary period. Poetry readings are often held at these statues.

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Other Jodey Bateman translations of Pablo Neruda:
I'll Explain Some Things
What Spain Was Like
An Ode For Ironing
Ode to a Woman Gardening
Ode To Bird Watching
Ode to Broken Things
Ode to Clothing / Oda al Traje
Ode to Olive Oil / Oda al Aceite
Ode to Some Yellow Flowers
Ode to the Artichoke
Ode to the Dictionary
Ode to the Lemon
Ode to the Piano
Ode to the Smell of Wood
Opium In The East (excerpt)
Poem Twenty
For Everybody
From the Heights of Maccho Picchu
Poems by Pablo Neruda, Pulitizer Prize winner
Status Report
The Arrival in Madrid
The Heavenly Poets
The Old Women of the Ocean
The Turtle
To Sit Down
To the Foot From Its Child