I scarcely knew, by myself, that I existed,
that I'd be able to be, and go on being.
I was afraid of that, of life itself.
I didn't want to be seen,
I didn't want my existence to be known.
I became pallid, thin, and absentminded.
I didn't want to speak so that nobody
would recognize my voice, I didn't want
to see so that nobody would see me.
Walking, I pressed myself against the wall
like a shadow slipping away.
I would have dressed myself in red roof tiles, in smoke,
to continue there, but invisible,
to attend everything, but at a distance,
to keep my own obscure identity
fastened to the rhythm of the spring.
A girl's face, the pure surprise
of a laugh dividing the day in two
like the two hemispheres of an orange,
and I shifted to another street,
unnerved by life and tentative,
close to water without tasting its coolness,
close to fire without kissing its flame,
and a mask of pride encased me,
and I was thin and arrogant as a spear,
unlistening, unlistened to
(I made that impossible),
like the whine of a hurt dog
at the bottom of a well.
--Pablo Neruda, from The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
Excerpt of “After All” by Gabriel H. Sánchez, from The Fluid Chicano
This day marks the death of innocence
where will their love go to extinguish
emptiness fills the vacant chambers in their chests
where once hope crafted smiles
with the raw materials of their wishful thinking