Keeping Quiet: a poem to mark the solstice

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would not look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

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

~Pablo Neruda, (1904 – 1973)

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