Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Inflection (Poem)

My first encounter with Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Prize winning poet, came just a few months ago while our family was staying with my wife's grandparents in St. George. They're housesitting for some friends who are currently serving an LDS mission in Hawaii (not a bad deal on either part!). The house is quite large and every room has at least one wall covered in books. Needless to say, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! Flipping through the poetry section, I came across Neruda's Selected Poems and spent the next couple of days with him breathing in my ear. I was fascinated by the man and struck by the richness and immediacy of his poetry and felt compelled to write something in response. A few days later, I'd refined my thoughts into this ekphrastic poem--a poem written about or in response to art. (For more info about ekphrasis, click here or here. And to link to the picture I've written about, click here.)

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Inflection: On the Cover of Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems

Behind him, to our right,
just beyond the camera’s focus,
a sculpted Chilean mistress
leans into his tilted head. The line
of her low-cut dress slopes
across peaking breasts, then
crossways to her shoulder
where, cropped
by the edge of the print, we fall
into the waves of her
torso’s fertile skin.

Exploding upward
from this painted sea, she
reflects Neruda in the blur of her face,
seducing us
back to his raised eyebrows; his
easy, penetrating gaze;
the distinction of his nose; lips
resolved as the voice projected
through their vibrant arc; along
the buttoned cleft of his shirt;

into the clasp of his priestly hands
where we rest together,
breathing
to the dry whisper
of his watch’s relentless rhythms.