National Poetry Month Day 3 – Body of a Woman

April 3, 2014

I don’t have to say much to explain this poem or my response–it’s Pablo Frickin’ Neruda, “Body of a Woman.” You can find another translation here, though I personally like Merwin’s the best (reproduced below). I’ll just say that, as erotic as his poems are, there’s also a profound longing embedded in them, and that’s what I tried to capture–“alone like a tunnel.”

body of a woman

“Body of a Woman”

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of a woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.