The Book of Questions
In the spirit of this blog’s subhead (Questions and answers, but mainly questions.) I thought I would post a passage from a favorite poet, Pablo Neruda. The following is from the inside sleeve:
“In The Book of Questions, Pablo Neruda refuses to be corralled by the rational mind. Composed entirely of unanswerable couplets, the poems integrate the wonder of a child with the experiences of an adult. Whether comic, surreal, or Orphic, Neruda’s poignant questions lead the reader beyond reason into realms of sudden intuition and pure imagination.”
There are some fascinatiing elements to this book. For one, on a corporate scale, the questions(only 3-6 couplets per page) play off one another over a span of many pages. Page 10 rings a bit with page 9, and page 17 reminds us of something … what was it (::flipping back::), ah yes – here it is on page 10 – but not so much on 9. Get it?
As a Christian – I also find myself becoming a little unsettled as a I read. Neruda seems to be blasting away some foundations. In other words, I find myself losing my footing a little bit as I contemplate these quetions. Though unanswerable, I am drawn to ponder them. Thinking on this stuff is like drinking that second glass of wine. My heart warms up, converstation starts flowing, but I’m not sure if I’m speaking wisdom or sticking my foot in my mouth. Anyway, I’ll start you off with a tame one and follow it up with a not-so-tame one.
“Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?
Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?
Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?
Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?”
“What forced labor
does Hitler do in hell?
Does he paint walls or cadavers?
Does he sniff the fumes of the dead?
Do they feed him the ashes
of so many burnt children?
Or, since his death, have they given him
blood to drink from a funnel?
Or do they hammer into his mouth
the pulled gold teeth?
Or do they lay him down to sleep
on his barbed wire?
Or are they tattooing his skin
for the lamps in hell?
Or do black mastiffs of flame
bite him without mercy?
Or must he travel without rest,
night and day with his prisoners?
Or must he die without dying
eternally under the gas?”