2 years ago
WordDoctor
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Daily Neruda: Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market
In keeping with my spontaneous theme this week of Pablo Neruda's poems about ordinary things, here is another about - tuna! I actually find tuna fascinating because I was so shocked when I found out how large they are in the wild. I always pictured them as small fish when I was a child. It gives me shivers to think of these large creatures cutting through the water! So ordinary in our cuisine, but so majestic in their habitat. The image is by Sebastiao Salgado from the linked post on Salt Salon. "Ode to a Large Tune in the Market" By Pablo Neruda Translated by Robin Robertson Here, among the market vegetables, this torpedo from the ocean depths, a missile that swam, now lying in front of me dead. Surrounded by the earth's green froth —these lettuces, bunches of carrots— only you lived through the sea's truth, survived the unknown, the unfathomable darkness, the depths of the sea, the great abyss, le grand abîme, only you: varnished black-pitched witness to that deepest night. Only you: dark bullet barreled from the depths, carrying only your one wound, but resurgent, always renewed, locked into the current, fins fletched like wings in the torrent, in the coursing of the underwater dark, like a grieving arrow, sea-javelin, a nerveless oiled harpoon. Dead in front of me, catafalqued king of my own ocean; once sappy as a sprung fir in the green turmoil, once seed to sea-quake, tidal wave, now simply dead remains; in the whole market yours was the only shape left with purpose or direction in this jumbled ruin of nature; you are a solitary man of war among these frail vegetables, your flanks and prow black and slippery as if you were still a well-oiled ship of the wind, the only true machine of the sea: unflawed, undefiled, navigating now the waters of death. Among the market greens, a bullet from the ocean depths, a swimming projectile, I saw you, dead. All around you were lettuces, sea foam of the earth, carrots, grapes, but of the ocean truth, of the unknown, of the unfathomable shadow, the depths of the sea, the abyss, only you had survived, a pitch-black, varnished witness to deepest night. Only you, well-aimed dark bullet from the abyss, mangled at one tip, but constantly reborn, at anchor in the current, winged fins windmilling in the swift flight of the marine shadow, a mourning arrow, dart of the sea, olive, oily fish. I saw you dead, a deceased king of my own ocean, green assault, silver submarine fir, seed of seaquakes, now only dead remains, yet in all the market yours was the only purposeful form amid the bewildering rout of nature; amid the fragile greens you were a solitary ship, armed among the vegetables, fin and prow black and oiled, as if you were still the vessel of the wind, the one and only pure ocean machine: unflawed, navigating the waters of death. "Oda a un Gran Atún en el Mercardo" By Pablo Neruda (Original Spanish) En el mercado verde, bala del profundo océano proyectil natatorio, te vi, muerto. Todo a tu alrededor eran lechugas, espuma de la tierra, zanahorias, racimos, pero de la verdad marina, de lo desconocido, de la insondable sombra, agua profunda, abismo, sólo tú sobrevivías alquitranado, barnizado, testigo de la profunda noche. Sólo tú, bala oscura del abismo, certera, destruida sólo en un punto, siempre renaciendo, anclando en la corriente sus aladas alets, circulando en la velocidad, en el transcurso de la sombra marina como enlutada flecha, dardo del mar, intrépida aceituna. Muerto te vi, difunto rey de mi propio océano, ímpetu verde, abeto submarino, nuez de los maremotos, allí, despojo muerto, en el mercado era sin embargo tu forma lo único dirigido entre la confusa derrota de la naturaleza: entre la verdura frágil estabas solo como una nave, armado entre legumbres, con ala y proa negras y aceitadas, como si aún tú fueras la embarcación del viento, la única y pura máquina marina: intacta navegando las aguas de la la muerte.
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The repetition in this is really great: the ideas of missiles and oil and machinery really are repeated over and over again until you know what that Tuna looks like among the lettuce, dead in front of him. I, like you, had no idea tuna were so huge until I got much older. I wonder if Neruda did research about tuna, or he just wrote what he felt the tuna was telling him in the market.
It's weird to think about what writing "research" may have looked like before the internet, isn't it? Would he have just walked around talking to fishermen? Were there good books about tuna? Probably, yes.
@WordDoctor @hikaymm It's definitely strange to think about! I bet there were a lot of conversations between Neruda and fisherman about tuna and the sheer size of them.