The Body of Pablo Neruda

—upon learning that Neruda’s body will be exhumed on April 8, 2013 to determine

if he was poisoned as part of the CIA-backed overthrow of Chile’s Allende government


My lips open over all time, and all time,

Not just part of time has consumed my hands.

—Pablo Neruda, The Sand Betrayed


The body of Pablo Neruda will be exhumed today so that forensic pathologists can determine if he was poisoned.


Murdering furies, torment of sorrows,

secret hypodermics of black oil

masquerading as emissaries

of Science, God and the American Way,

your signature stains the bones

of the Shaman who once spun gold

into a thousand leaves of light.


But even darkness coughs up its crimes,

and the Earth will vomit you out,

you who bleed the veins

of metallic underground rivers

to feed the starving ghost whose scream

goes on forever and ever.

And no drops of holy water,

no Araucanian rain can wash away

the blood-tainted dawn.


Let this poet sleep, snug in the fleshy

vines and copihue blossoms

of his homeland, bare as flint

on the moon-blanched spine

of Andean cordillera, supple

as grasses in the arms of the wind’s whim,

glassy as a prism striking flames of praise


in all the mouths of Earth and sky,

all the eyes watching over you now

like a guardian army.


©2013 Sean Arthur Joyce


• Copihue (pronounced cop-i-way) is Chile’s national flower.

• Araucania is one of the provinces of Chile, situated at about its geographic centre. The region is mentioned in many of Neruda’s poems; he seems to have felt a kinship with its indigenous Mapuche people. It is used here metaphorically as the ‘heart’ of the country he so loved.

• This poem was written April 8, 2013, the scheduled date of Neruda’s exhumation.

About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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