Monday, April 16, 2012

Now I Will Count to Twelve

Oliver, in sunlight, October 2010


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

Pablo Neruda
translated by Stephen Mitchell


  1. I love Neruda AND your fireplace. and your son's pretty great too.

  2. That picture of Oliver is so sweet that it gave me a toothache. Love it.

  3. I adore the poetry of Neruda.
    And your son in the light streaming into your house and painting it with glory.

  4. This poem is a great antidote to the earlier post on "mommy wars"

  5. Tears are streaming down my face, Elizabeth. I feel like you posted this for me. I love Neruda but I've never seen this one. It was waiting for this moment. Thank you.

    And I love your mermaid. Where ever did you find her?

  6. You know how many times you've made me cry?
    I love you for it.

  7. Oh that poem is breathtaking and your son holding the sunlight. Thank you for this.

  8. I read this today while taking a few-minute break at work, and it got me through the rest of the afternoon.

    "Perhaps the earth is teaching us
    when everything seems to be dead
    and then everything is alive."


  9. That photo is wonderful! And so is the poem. Perhaps I'm imposing my own philosophies onto it, but it seems very Buddhist -- the idea of sitting still in silence, and being aware.

  10. Thank you for this. Both the poem and the pic.



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