The Great Ocean — by Pablo Neruda

By Paul Thomas Zenki

The Great Ocean

by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Paul Thomas Zenki

If your gifts and your destructions, Ocean, could bequeath
to my hands one portion, one fruit, one ferment,
I would choose your distant repose, your steel lines,
your expanse sentried by the air and the night,
and the energy of your white language
that destroys and tumbles its columns
onto its own demolished purity.

It is not the last wave with its salty weight
which crushes the coast and produces
the peace of sand that encircles the world.
It is the central mass of force,
the extended power of the waters,
the unmovable solitude full of lives.
Time, perhaps, or all of motion
congregated in a cup, pure unity
which death never sealed, visceral green
of scorched totality.

The submerged arm which lifts each drop
leaves nothing but a kiss of salt. The bodies
of man linger on your shores as a damp fragrance
of wet flowers. Your energy
seems to slip away without shrinking,
seems to return to your rest.

The wave you let loose,
selfsame arc, starry plumage,
when it shattered was mere foam
and was reborn without extinguishing.

All your force returns to first being.
You swallow only chewed up giblets,
shells shed from your cargo,
what the agitation of your abundance ejected,
everything that broke from the cluster.

Your monument spans beyond the waves.

Alive and ordained like the chest and garment
of just one being and its breathing,
raised into the mass of light,
flatlands lifted by the waves,
forming the planet’s naked skin.

You fill your own being with your substance.
You brim a curve of silence.

The cup trembles with your salt and your honey,
the universal abyss of water,
and you lack nothing, like the brash
crater, the vessel untamed:
empty summits, scars, sentinals
who sentry the butchered air.

Your petals pulse against the world,
they tousle your submerged fields,
the soft spirals dangle their menace,
they steer and swarm the schools,
and only the scale’s dead lightning
rises upon the thread of the nets,
a splinter wounding the span
of your crystalline totality.


Photos by Paul Thomas Zenki

Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.