Pablo Neruda, On the Blue Shore of Silence

I need the sea because it teaches me,
I donít know if I learn music or awareness,
if itís a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.

Itís not simply the shells crunched
as if some shivering planet
were giving signs of its gradual death;
no, I reconstruct the day out of a fragment,
the stalactite from a sliver of salt,
and the great god out of a spoonful.

What it taught me before, I keep. Itís air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.

It seems a small thing for a young man,
to have come here to live with his own fire;
nevertheless, the pulse that rose
and fell in its abyss,
the cracking of the blue cold,
the gradual wearing away of the star,
the soft unfolding of the wave
squandering snow with its foam,
the quiet power out there, sure
as a stone shrine in the depths,
replaced my world in which were growing
stubborn sorrow, gathering oblivion,
and my life changed suddenly:
as I became part of its pure movement.

My favorite of the poems in this beautifully illustrated 2003 book on Neruda's Isla Negra period. He refers to the "university of the waves" which is a place I have studied for years. It echoes the comment by Basho to one of his students in about 1679, that "if you want to know about pine trees, go to a pine tree"....a poetic statement about the essentials of learning. I also very much like the elegance with which Neruda leads into the transformation at the end of the poem.

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