Let me explain a few things…

Pablo Neruda is “the greatest poet of the twentieth century–in any language.” said Gabriel García Márquez

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Pablo and Gabo


Explico algunas cosas (Let me Explain a Few Things), a poem written in fiery rage against what Franco’s troops had done to Madrid “And one morning, everything was burning” , is where Neruda traced his own change from the romantic who had authored love poems to the committed righter of the world’s wrongs:

“You will ask why my poetry does not speak of dreams and leaves? You will ask why it does not speak of volcanoes and of my native land?” he wrote.

And then he provided the ringing answer:

“Come and see the blood in the streets! Come and see the blood in the streets!”

Of course, Neruda’s native land, Chile, was to be the scene of repression as bloody as Franco’s after Pinochet’s coup against Allende in 1971.



Preguntaréis: Y dónde están las lilas?
Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?
Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba
sus palabras llenándolas
de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio
de Madrid, con campanas,
con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía
el rostro seco de Castilla
como un océano de cuero.
Mi casa era llamada
la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes
estallaban geranios: era
una bella casa
con perros y chiquillos.
Raúl, te acuerdas?
Te acuerdas, Rafael?
Federico, te acuerdas
debajo de la tierra,
te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde
la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?
Hermano, hermano!
eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías,
aglomeraciones de pan palpitante,
mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua
como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:
el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,
un profundo latido
de pies y manos llenaba las calles,
metros, litros, esencia
aguda de la vida,
pescados hacinados,
contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual
la flecha se fatiga,
delirante marfil fino de las patatas,
tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo
y una mañana las hogueras
salían de la tierra
devorando seres,
y desde entonces fuego,
pólvora desde entonces,
y desde entonces sangre.
Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,
víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola
de orgullo y de cuchillos!

mirad mi casa muerta,
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo
en vez de flores,
pero de cada hueco de España
sale España,
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,
pero de cada crimen nacen balas
que os hallarán un día el sitio
del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía
no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas,
de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver
la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver la sangre
por las calles!

“Explico algunas cosas”~ Pablo Neruda

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Neruda followed in anguish the coup that toppled Allende’s Government. As a prominent Communist, he was raided by the military on his deathbed, but was spirited enough to say to the soldier who marched in to his bedroom: “There is only one thing of danger for you here — my poetry!”

Twelve days after the fall of the Allende Government, Pablo Neruda died. His body lay for two days in his house, which had been ransacked by the military, and his funeral became the occasion for a spontaneous popular demonstration against the military dictatorship. Novelist Isabel Allende (and niece of Salvador Allende), who was living in Santiago and working as journalist recounts:

“In spite of the terror that reigned in the streets of Santiago, several hundred people showed up at the funeral. Neruda was a Communist and most of his friends were leftists, persecuted or closely watched by the dictatorship. People marched to the cemetery between two lines of heavily armed soldiers in battle gear, with their faces painted in black and green. The mourners started shouting “Compañero Pablo Neruda, presente” and reciting his poetry aloud, tears running down their faces. After a while the mood of the crowd became more defiant and the funeral included the President, whom we had not been able to give a proper burial. The people shouted: “Compañero Salvador Allende, presente!” and they sang the slogans of the Unidad Popular, like: “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido” (the people, united, will never be defeated).”

Neruda’s biographer Adam Feinstein recounts how one morning soon after his death there was an uproar in a house where Neruda had used to live — a huge eagle had got into the living-room, though all the doors and windows of the house had been locked for months. Pablo Neruda had always said that in his next life he wanted to be an eagle. No doubt his wish was fulfilled, and he soars above us today, like his poetry.

“You showed me how one person’s pain could die in the victory of all …
You have made me indestructible, for I no longer end in myself.”


“I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song. “

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2 Responses to “Let me explain a few things…”

  1. niku says:

    Thanks for the article! A translation which reads good is here–http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-m-explaining-a-few-things/ (I dont know Spanish)

  2. Mark Eisner says:

    Bonjour. I think you’d love our Red Poppy Neruda jardin de poesia at

    Isabel Allende is in our documentary on Pablo, and that’s my baby The Essential Neruda you have pictured! (merci, gracias) Would be great if you would become a member. We need all the hands digging in this poetic earth. And you’ll find my English translation of Explico Algunas Cosas there on line.

    Paz, pan, flores y amor,
    Mark Eisner

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