“How much happens in a day”

Pablo Neruda
Translated by Alastair Reid
Selected by Vicki Genna

Extravagaria by Pablo Neruda

This poem is a great reminder of how precious life is. As Neruda writes, “joy in all things, in what falls and what flourishes.” Enjoy life, appreciate its beauty, and know that it takes just one moment for everything to change.

—Vicki Genna


How much happens in a day
 

In the course of a day we shall meet one another.

But, in one day, things spring to life—
they sell grapes in the street,
tomatoes change their skin,
the young girl you wanted
never came back to the office.

They changed the postman suddenly.
The letters now are not the same.
A few golden leaves and it’s different;
this tree is now well off.

Who would have said that the earth
with its ancient skin would change so much?
It has more volcanoes than yesterday,
the sky has brand-new clouds,
the rivers are flowing differently.
Besides, so much has come into being!
I have inaugurated hundreds
of highways and buildings,
delicate, clean bridges
like ships or violins.

And so, when I greet you
and kiss your flowering mouth,
our kisses are other kisses,
our mouths are other mouths.

Joy, my love, joy in all things,
in what falls and what flourishes.

Joy in today and yesterday,
the day before and tomorrow.

Joy in bread and stone,
joy in fire and rain.

In what changes, is born, grows,
consumes itself, and becomes a kiss again.

Joy in the air we have,
and in what we have of earth.

When our life dries up,
only the roots remain to us,
and the wind is cold like hate.

Then let us change our skin,
our nails, our blood, our gazing;
and you kiss me and I go out
to sell light on the roads.

Joy in the night and the day,
and the four stations of the soul.
 

 

Extravagaria

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Pablo Neruda (1904-73), one of the renowned poets of the twentieth century, was born in Parral, Chile. He shared the World Peace Prize with Paul Robeson and Pablo Picasso in 1950, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.

Alastair Reid (1926-2014) was a Scottish poet and a scholar of South American literature. He was known for his translations of South American poets Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda.

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