Monday, January 18, 2016


     I'm back after almost a month of absence from this blog.  I think it's been my longest stretch yet.  And I don't really know why I've stayed away so long, except that I've felt I don't have much to say.  I've been doing my regular doings.  I've spent a very large chunk of this almost-month finishing my nine billionth round of revisions to my book, and I guess that's where I've been pouring all my creative energies.  I finished those up on Saturday and sent the revised manuscript to the agent who told me on December 15th (my birthday!) that I was "almost there."  Nothing to do now but wait, and get to work on something else to keep me from checking my inbox 100 times a day.
     I decided to post today because it's Martin Luther King Day.  I don't know more about the man than most other Americans do, and don't have anything brilliant or original to say about him.  So what I've decided to do is quote a work by Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet of the oppressed.  And since my friend Nila Bose ( is both a gifted poet, and the one who first brought Neruda to my attention, I'm dedicating this selection to her. 
     Neruda called this poem SONG FOR THE MOTHERS OF SLAIN MILITIAMEN (in Spanish, of course).  I think it pertains equally well as a memorial to MLK, as long as I change the title to


They have not died! They are in the midst
of the gunpowder,
standing, like burning wicks.
Their pure shadows have gathered
in the copper-colored meadowland
like a curtain of armored wind,
like a barricade the color of fury,
like the invisible heart of heaven itself.

Mothers! They are standing in the wheat,
tall as the depth of noon,
dominating the great plains!
They are a black-voiced bell stroke
That across the bodies murdered by steel
is ringing out victory.
                                  Sisters like the fallen
dust, shattered
have faith in your dead.
They are not only roots
beneath the bloodstained stones,
not only do their poor demolished bones
definitively till the soil,
but their mouths still bite dry powder
and attack like iron oceans, and still
their upraised fists deny death.
Because from so many bodies an invisible life
rises up. Mothers, banners, sons!
A single body as alive as life:
a face of broken eyes keeps vigil in the darkness
with a sword filled with earthly hopes!

Put aside
your mantles of mourning, join all
your tears until you make them metal:
for there we strike by day and by night,
there we kick by day and by night,
there we spit by day and by night
until the doors of hatred fall!
I do not forget your misfortunes, I know
your sons,
and if I am proud of their deaths,
I am also proud of their lives.

                                                Their laughter
flashed in the silent workshops,
their steps in the subway
sounded at my side each day, and next
to the oranges from the Levant, to the nets from the South, next
to the ink from the printing presses, over the cement of the architecture
I have seen their hearts flame with fire and energy.

And just as in your hearts, mothers,
there is in my heart so much mourning and so much death
that it is like a forest
drenched by the blood that killed their smiles,
and into it enter the rabid mists of vigilance
with the rending loneliness of the days.

more than curses for the thirsty hyenas, the bestial death rattle,
that howls from Africa its filthy privileges,
more than anger, more than scorn, more than weeping,
mothers pierced by anguish and death,
look at the heart of the noble day that is born,
and know that your dead ones smile from the earth
raising their fists above the wheat.

                                                   (translation by Richard Schaaf)