From “The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems”

“Dead Gallop

Like ashes, like oceans gathering themselves,

in the submerged slowness, in what’s unformed,

or like hearing from a high place on the road

the cross-echo of church bells,

holding that sound just off the metal,

confused, weighing down, turning to dust,

in the same mill of forms, too far away,

remembered or never seen,

and the fragrance of plums rolling to the ground,

which rot in time, infinitely green.


That everything, so quick, so lively,

immobile, though, like the pully, wild inside itself,

those wheels in motors, you know.

Existing like the dry stitches in the seams of the tree,

silent, encircling, like that,

all the limbs mixing up their tails.

I mean, from where, to where, on what shore?

The constant swirl, uncertain, so mute,

like the lilacs around the convent,

or death’s arrival on the ox’s tongue,

who falls in jerks, his guard down, his horns trying to sound.


That’s why, in what’s immobile, stopping oneself, to perceive,

then, like an immense fluttering of wings, above,

like dead bees or numbers,

ay, that which my pale heart can’t embrace,

in multitudes, in tears scarcely shed,

and human exertions, storms,

black actions suddenly discovered,

like ice, vast disorder,

oceanic, for me who enters singing,

like a sword among the defenseless.


Now then, what it is made of, that surge of doves

there between night and time, like a humid ravine?

That sound, already so long,

which falls striping the roads with stones,

or better yet, when just one hour

expands without warning, extending endlessly.


Within the ring of summer

the great pumpkins listen once,

stretching out their poignant plants,

of that, of what’s asking so much,

full, dark with heavy drops.”