On Keeping Quiet

April 10, 2014

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.


‘It is not what a man says that truly maketh a man. As it remains the very uneventful case of what he should say, but instead chooses not to say and instead decides to keep it all to himself like some dark secret that will usually mark him out from all other men.

Try as hard as you may and you can still NEVER make this man say what he should say – do what you want to him to force him to say the things you want to hear and his monk like silence will still have the power to pierce through the wall of noise and make it’s presence felt – as when a man commits himself not to say what everyone expects him to say, then through his stoic silence he would have already said what all others expect him to say….and it will be very loud and clear…silence can truly be deafening when people expect you to say something, but instead you keep quiet.

I reckon this must be the first lesson poetry teaches every man…to be so still and quiet and to only listen to silence….this is what I have learnt from my reading of the infinite man….as he is so very still and silent, yet so strong like a mountain.’

By Darkness on Neruda’s infinite man.

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