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THREE ODES

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By Pablo Neruda

Translated by Wally Swist

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The Montréal Review, January 2022

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Jim Dine Art: The Bees and Their Merriment

The Bees and their Merriment (2017) by Jim Dine (Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art)

ODE TO THE BEE

Multitude of bees!
They go in and out
of crimson, of blue,
of yellow,
of the softest
softness in the world:
you enter
headlong
into a corolla,
you go out
for business
in a gold suit
and a quantity
of yellow boots.

Perfect
from the waist,
abdomen striped
with dark bars,
the little head
always
a little worried,
and the
wings,
freshly made of water,
you enter
through all the scented windows,
open
the silken doors,
the most fragrant love
penetrates them,
with
a
dewdrop
like a diamond,
and of all the houses
you visit
you remove
honey
mysteriously,
rich and heavy
honey, thick aroma,
light that melts in drops,
until you
return
to your
collective
palace,
and in the German gothic
deposit
the product
of the flower and the flight,
the secret and seraphic
nuptial sun!
Multitude of bees!
Sacred
elevation
of unity,
palpitating
sisterhood!

Buzzing,
sonorous
numbers
that work
the nectar,
swiftly
passing
drops
of ambrosia:
it is the summer
siesta in the green
solitudes
of Osorno.  From above,
the sun sticks its spears
in the snow,
the volcanoes shine,
as wide as the seas
is the land,
space is blue,
but
something
trembles, is
the burning
heart
of summer,
the heart of honey
multiplied,
the buzzing
bee,
the crackling
honeycomb
of flight and gold!
           
Bees,
purest workers,
pointed
laborers,
fine, lightning,
proletariat,
perfect,
reckless militia,
that in combat attack
with suicidal sting,
buzz,
buzz about
the gifts of the earth,
family of gold,
multitude of the wind
shake the fire
from the flowers,
the thirst from the stamens,
the sharp
thread
of smell
that gathers the days,
and propagate
honey,
surpassing
the humid continents, the islands
farther from
the western sky.
           
Yes:
let the wax lift
green statues,
honey spill
infinite
tongues,
and the ocean be
a
beehive,
the earth
a tower and robe
of flowers,
and the world
a cascade
of hair,
an incessant
growth
of honeycombs!

 

Irina Sushelnytska Art: Energy of red, 2018

Energy of Red (2018) by Irina Sushelnytska

ODE TO CONGER CHOWDER

In the stormy
Chilean
sea
lives the pink conger,
giant eel
of snowy flesh.
And in the soup pots
of Chile,
on the coast,
the chowder was born,
gracious and succulent,
providential.
The skinned conger is brought
to the kitchen,
the stained skin gives way
like a glove,
then
the grape of the sea,
then
the tender eel
gleams
already naked,
prepared
for our appetites.
Now
you pick
garlic,
stroke first
that precious
ivory,
smell
the angry fragrance,
then
mix the minced garlic,
letting it fall
with the onion
and tomato
until the onion
is the color of gold.                                                                         
Meanwhile
the royal
marine prawns
are steamed,
and when
they have become
tender,
when the flavor
of the sauce
is formed
by the nectar
of the ocean
and the clear water
begins to shine from the light of the onion,
then
you add the eel
and it is immersed in its glory,
in the oil
of the pot,
and it is reduced, and begins to simmer.
Now all that is necessary
is to drizzle the cream
on the delicacy
like a thick rose,
then slowly
deliver the treasure
to the flame,
until in the chowder
what is heated
are the essences of Chile,
and on the table
arrive, just married,
are the flavors
of land and sea,
so that on that plate
you may come to know heaven.

 

Diane Andrews Hall Art: Hummingbird on Map (2021)

Hummingbird on Map (2021) by Diane Andrews Hall (Gail Severn Gallery)

ODE TO THE HUMMINGBIRD

To the hummingbird,
zigzagging
spark of water,
incandescent droplet
of fire
from the Americas,
ignited
condensation
of the jungle,
celestial
precision:
to
the hummingbird
an arc,
a
golden
strand,
a bonfire
of green!

Oh
tiny
living
lightning flash,
when
your structure
of pollen
is held
in the air,
feather
or ember,
I ask you,
what are you,
where do
you originate?
Maybe in the blind age
of the flood,
in the mud
of fertility,
when
the rose
froze into a fist of coal,
and the metals joined together,
each one in
their secret
gallery,
maybe then
from the wounded
reptile
a fragment rolled out,
one atom
of gold,
the last
cosmic scale, one
drop
of earth fire,
and it flew
suspending your beauty,
your coruscating
and rapid sapphire.

You sleep
on a walnut,
dig yourself into a
miniscule corolla,
arrow,
intention,
shield,
vibration
of honey, ray of pollen,
you are
so brave
that the falcon
with dark plumage
doesn’t terrify you:
you spin
like light within light,
air in air,
and you
fly into
the moist folds
of a quivering flower
without fear
that its nuptial honey will behead you.

From scarlet to dusted gold
to flaming yellow,
to the rare
Cinderella green,
to orange and black velvet
of a sparkling corset,
up to the drawing
that like
an amber thorn
commences you,
little, supreme being,
you are a miracle,
and you blaze
from
warm California
to the whistling
of the bitter winds of Patagonia.

You are seed
of the sun,
fire,
feather,
small
streaming
banner,
petal of silenced peoples,
syllable
of buried blood,
quill
of the ancient
submerged
heart.

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About the Translator

Wally Swist has published over forty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as co-winner in the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Contest, and Daodejing: A New Interpretation (Lamar University Press, 2015).

His translations have been and/or will be published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron Review, Ezra: An Online Journal of Translation, The RavensPerch: Adding Breadth to Words, Solace: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, Transference: A Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, (Western Michigan Department of Languages),and Woven Tale Press.

Recent books of poetry include A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature (Ex Ophidia Press, 2019), the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize, The Bees of the Invisible (2019), Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), and Awakening & Visitation (2020), with Shanti Arts.

Forthcoming books include, A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews, Taking Residence, and a translation of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s L’Allegria/Cheerfulness, also with Shanti Arts.

He is also the author of Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (Operating System, 2018).

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