Too many names

Love Poem (10 minutes after the end of gravity)

‘Love Poem (10 minutes after the end of gravity)’
by Adam Cvijanovic, 2005 (detail)
flashe and house paint on tyvek
14ft x 75ft

The following is by Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda, ‘Demasiados Nombres‘ translated from the Spanish by Anthony Kerrigan.

In dedication of H.E. Ahmed Helmy Badr
1911 – 14.1.08

Too Many Names

Monday entangles itself with Tuesday
and the week with the year:
time cannot be severed
with your weary shears,
and all the names of the day
the water of night clears.

No man can call himself Pedro,
no woman Rosa or María,
we are all sand or dust,
we are all rain in the rain.
They have told me of Venezuelas,
Paraguays and Chiles,
I don’t know what they’re talking about:
I know the skin of the Earth
and I know that it has no name.

When I lived among roots
they delighted me more than flowers,
and when I talked to a stone
it echoed like a bell.

It is so slow the spring
that lasts the winter long:
time has lost his shoes:
one year’s four centuries.

When I go to sleep each night
what am I called, not called?
And when I wake up, who am I
if it wasn’t ‘I’ who was sleeping?

This is to say that as soon as we
are thrust out into life,
that we come newly born,
that our mouths are not filled
with all these dubious names,
with all these mournful labels,
with all these meaningless letters,
with all this ‘yours’ and ‘mine’,
with all this signing of papers.

I think to confound things
mingling them, hatching them new,
seeing through them, stripping them naked,
until the light of the earth
has the unity of the ocean,
a generous integrity,
a crackle of starched perfume.

– Pablo Neruda

See also: ‘Demasiados Nombres’ en español

Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems (Edición bilingüe), by Pablo Neruda (trans. Anthony Kerrigan)


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