A Cento of Longing after Neruda
To survive myself I forge you like a weapon.
Because of all that I was, I bear only these scars.
The memory of you emerges from the night around me—
such a passion of weeping tied to my body!
While light wraps you in its mortal flame,
everything bears me farther away, as though you were noon.
Cold flower heads raining over my heart,
loneliness sustained by a constant face,
a sea of longing slices my breast into pieces─
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed,
I am like a scorched rock,
yes: seed-germs, and grief, and every thing that throbs,
the tormenting structure of that silence:
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings,
we had only to love one another.
No one sees the moon that bleeds in my mouth
but when I hold you, I hold everything.
There where the waves shatter on the restless rocks
I loved you without knowing I did; I searched to remember you,
in your eyes of mourning the land of dreams begin.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe,
in you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them,
you fill everything, you fill everything.
Like a bonfire of awe in which my thirst is burning,
I send out red signals across your absent eyes.
Ah your body, a frightened statue, naked
and charged to insanity with electric currents,
in that sadness of mine that you know
I live in a harbor from which I love you,
you are like the night, with its stillness and constellations,
the biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
Invade me with your hot mouth; interrogate me─
you are my dark familiar clay.
Get used to seeing the shadow behind me, accept
that sorrow rises and falls, comes near with its deep spoons.
They’re liars, those who say I lost the moon,
I sleep with the night,
I am born again: I am the owner of my own darkness
unsuspectingly, singing with the wind.
We are the only blind ones, endlessly alone,
What a world! What a deep parsley!
or have you gone away-?-(then I’d know the winter had begun)
and that, Love, is the shadow life has given me.
What rock, what smoke showed you where I live?
Silent and limping like a scarecrow with a bloody grin,
lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig,
this wounded springtime was blessed.
The earth has known you for a long time now,
oh, may nothing touch you but the chilly salt!
Hunting through the leaves of the night for your hands,
kiss by kiss I travel your little infinity,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond,
Love, I’ve made an inventory of your body.
Days hang like bridges between darknesses,
shimmer as orange and gasoline rainbows.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved:
like a quick stream dropping from under the snow,
and yet beyond the earth, beyond its shadowy dark
there’s nothing but light, quantities, clusters,
nothing matters or has a name,
not even the shy mineral hands of the hills.
You have vines and stars in your hair,
conquering light, you blister with your white energy,
no withering autumn ever touched us
from the rugged landscapes of cold and earthquake.
Your eyes go out to the water and the waves rise,
but love was not like that: love was a lunatic city.
In the city we wander like country people, confused,
green blood dropping from the sky into memory.
The light arrives and opens like a rose garden
on its honeysuckle feet in your bedroom,
the transmigration of dream into salad─
lost syllables that were searching for your mouth.
O love, O crazy sunbeam and purple premonition
which builds an Eden with a few green leaves,
I see your image, a bonfire, burning in the water,
I love you in order to begin to love you.
Fly: electrify the natural names of things!
I want to look back and see you in the branches,
your laugh: it reminds me of a tree,
it accompanies me through the sky,
a man’s needs, a woman’s, and a life’s,
the mind and love live naked in this house.
You learned your holiness from flour:
the you of a kiss, the me of a secret bread,
I don’t have time enough to celebrate your hair
in this metallic homeland lifted by snow,
I need the light of your energy─
what I owe you is like a well in a wilderness
…and I will die of love because I love you,
you, compact and planetary, my dove, my globe.
Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps,
a single moon drop in the grass,
what was sleeping above your soul will rise─
the numberless heart of the wind.
The day weaves and unweaves its heavenly net
of time and water and waves and noise and rain,
suddenly your heart shows me my way
and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be.
NOTES: This form of this poem is a cento – it is composed of lines “stolen” from another poet, in this case, the great Chilean activist, lover, and writer, Pablo Neruda. Traditionally, the cento was 100 lines in length, as is my piece. I wrote this after many ruminations and meditations upon “human longing” since I am so often overcome with a sense of longing. In the poem, LOVE DOGS, the SUFI poet Jelaluddin RUMI tells us this longing is GOD’s message:
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage,
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
you express is the return message.”
What do you long for? How does longing play out in your asana practice? Does it turn into grasping (aparigraha)? Can you sit within that longing and accept it as an integral, even sacred part of your being? It’s a worthy practice for this life.