“Tonight I Can Write”

Pablo Neruda
Translated by W. S. Merwin
Selected by Zia Haider Rahman

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

I came across Neruda’s poem long before I had any cause to know the suffering of lost love or the secrets a night can hold. And yet it spoke to me, made me feel tenderness, perhaps because longing actually precedes loss. As a grown man, I look on it now and see more in its sad lines. I see an effort to cope by taking the measure of lost love; to render objective the subjective by likening loss to the great night that ends our days.

—Zia Haider Rahman


XX. Tonight I Can Write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “The night is starry
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.
 

 

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

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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 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.

Born in rural Bangladesh, Zia Haider Rahman was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and at Cambridge, Munich, and Yale Universities. He has worked as an investment banker on Wall Street and as an international human rights lawyer. In the Light of What We Know is his first novel.

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