Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Laundry Roses

My derioulsy beloved Toño is a man of many talents, among which is his faculty of letting me discover that there is a (kind of) romantic in me. Not that I'm now writing poems. I have no idea what forces are required to let me develop those sacred skills. It's just that I can't look at these roses without getting goose bumps and thinking of Toño.

I've got those roses with my laundry. The hotels of the Taj group put a rose onto every basket with the washed, ironed and nicely packed undies and shirts. Yesterday, I was in my room when a couples of baskets were delivered. I took the roses, put them into a water glass and got myself a medium to be with Toño. Then I know, that there are certainly some flowers in our resident as well as at Toño's office.

Since I'm not a poet at all, I have to resort to Pablo Neruda, a master of this art, who wrote the “The Herbalist’s. Rose,” devoted to flowers, branches, and vegetal growth:

La rosa del herbolario

Dejo en la nave de la rosa
la desición del herbolario:
si la estima por su virtud
o por la herida del aroma:
si es intacta como la quiere
o rígida como una muerta.

La breve nave no dirá
cuál es la muerte que prefiere:
si con la proa enarbolada
frente a su fuego victorioso
ardiendo con todas las velas
de la hermosura abrasadora
o secándose en un sistema
de pulcritud medicinal.

El herbolario soy, señores,
y me turban tales protestas
porque en mí mismo no convengo
a decidir mi idolatría:
la vestidura del rosal
quema el amor en su bandera
y el tiempo azota el esqueleto
derribando el aroma rojo
y la turgencia perfumada:
después con una sacudida
y una larga copa de lluvia
no queda nada de la flor.

Por eso agonizo y padezco
preservando el amor furioso
hasta en sus últimas cenizas.

The herbalist's rose

I consign to the ship of the rose
an herbalist's decision:
whether to honour the rose for its strenght,
or the wound of its odor:
whether all is intact, as he likes it,
or stiff as a corpse.

The terse ship will not say
which death it prefers:
the prow thrusting itself
through victorious fire
crowding its sails and ablaze
in its clustering beauty,
or wilting away under its regimen
of medicinal comeliness.

I am that herbalist: friends,
flinching from every complaint
because I can never agree
how to resolve my idolatry:
the rose's investiture
burns love on its banners,
time flays from its skeleton
the juice of a scarlet aroma,
the perfume's tumidity:
then, with one blow of the weather,
a great cupful of rain,
nothing is left of the flower.

Here I am moping and mowing
to preserve the full fury of love
till the last ash flickers out.


Toño said...

Muchas gracias por el hermoso poema de Neruda.

Las flores en nuestro hogar son cultivadas en casa y son de color azul. Sabes cuales?

Recordandote con todo mi amor y esperando ansioso tu regreso para estrecharte en mis brazos.

Katia Shtefan said...

What a beautiful poem. It reminds me of a sonnet in which Neruda compares love and hate. That is why he uses the word "idolatry" in this poem. Love can evoke such a strong desire for possession and control that it ceases to be love and destroys the object of its affection.

However, this translation is not great. If this is your own translation, please don't be offended. Everyone has different interpretations. I really recommend the translations found in "The Essential Neruda." This poem is not in there, but the book has all of Neruda's most famous poems.

And if you really like him, check out Red Poppy at It's a non-profit set up to create a documentary about Neruda, publish his biography, and translate his works into English. To see our blog about Nerudá's literary activism, click on "Journal." said...

Many thanks Katia, really looks interesting.

The translations is nicked from "Late and posthumous poems, 1968-1974", a bilingual anthology with translations by Ben Belitt.

On my computer, the background image is La Pregunta.