I’m Explaining a Few Things by Pablo Neruda (Second Excerpt)

I love this poem. I’ve written about it before, also at a time where the scale and brutality of police violence had my head spinning. You can find the full poem in my favorite poetry anthology (which also happens to be on sale at the University of Texas Press website right now), but the words that keep running through my head today are Neruda’s final refrain:

I’M EXPLAINING A FEW THINGS (excerpt)

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

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I’m Explaining a Few Things by Pablo Neruda

This is an excerpt from one of Pablo Neruda’s poems about the brutality of Franco and his Fascist forces. It ends with a simile that captures, better than any piece of writing I know, the struggle to use language and thought as a way to make sense of cruelty and brutality:

I’M EXPLAINING A FEW THINGS (excerpt)

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings–
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.