Neruda

Sometimes, Pablo
when I return
to the sprawling city you built
it’s as if I never left,
and I wander from old haunt
to old haunt,
hearing again the people voicing
their love
of song
of sex
of food and drink
of the salt ocean breaking the land
slowly from stone into sand and foam
and their grief over
the stillborn
the hungry
the promised prosperity reneged upon
the dead laid out stiffly in their Sunday best
on tables and benches

but other times, Pablo
it’s as if your poems only begin to exist
in the moment I step onto
the first warm and dusty stone
of the first narrow street
on the outskirts,
with the smell of onions
and fresh bread
freshly broken
breathing from the mouths
of lanes and alleyways
whose esophageal depths
you detour through
without warning
never pausing—unlike Orpheus,
that sweet liar
who saw in all others
only his own faithlessness—
but trusting me to follow,
to keep your pace
in sunlight and shadows
and I do
though I’m never sure
where you’re leading me
even when I know I’ve been
down a street
with you
one hundred times before

but, Pablo, it doesn’t matter
because we always cross
eventually
from one direction
or another
the Avenue of the Aggrieved
to spit upon
the Boulevard of Bastards
on our way
to unnamed plazas
that broaden with each step
and contain mountains
pouring glacial melt down their steep sides
into open mouths
which never knew thirst
until they tasted that water
and jungles still experimenting
with twilight
after all these years
and between them
fields of corn and potatoes
and great stretches of grain ripening
and through all that
rivers running dark and mottled with silt
tasting
of time and tomatoes
the dregs of wine
and murmuring with morning laughter
at every bend

until
around the centre
they collude with gravity
to pry open the oystered ocean,
let its brine seep into everything.

About John MacKenzie

I'll mumble for ya. Poetry, plus most things quantifiable: science, neuroscience, memory, epistemology, baseball. And so on.
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