Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market

By Pablo Neruda 1904–1973 Pablo Neruda

Translated By Robin Robertson Read the translator's notes

Here,   
among the market vegetables,
this torpedo
from the ocean   
depths,   
a missile   
that swam,
now   
lying in front of me
dead.

Surrounded
by the earth's green froth   
—these lettuces,
bunches of carrots—
only you   
lived through
the sea's truth, survived
the unknown, the
unfathomable
darkness, the depths   
of the sea,
the great   
abyss,
le grand abîme,
only you:   
varnished
black-pitched   
witness
to that deepest night.

Only you:
dark bullet
barreled   
from the depths,
carrying   
only   
your   
one wound,
but resurgent,
always renewed,
locked into the current,
fins fletched
like wings
in the torrent,
in the coursing
of
the
underwater
dark,
like a grieving arrow,
sea-javelin, a nerveless   
oiled harpoon.

Dead
in front of me,
catafalqued king
of my own ocean;
once   
sappy as a sprung fir
in the green turmoil,
once seed
to sea-quake,
tidal wave, now
simply
dead remains;
in the whole market
yours   
was the only shape left
with purpose or direction
in this   
jumbled ruin
of nature;
you are   
a solitary man of war
among these frail vegetables,
your flanks and prow
black   
and slippery
as if you were still
a well-oiled ship of the wind,
the only
true
machine
of the sea: unflawed,
undefiled,   
navigating now
the waters of death.

Source: Poetry (April 2007).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2007
 Pablo  Neruda

Biography

“No writer of world renown is perhaps so little known to North Americans as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda,” observed New York Times Book Review critic Selden Rodman. Numerous critics have praised Neruda as the greatest poet writing in the Spanish language during his lifetime, although many readers in the United States have found it difficult to disassociate Neruda’s poetry from his fervent commitment to communism. An added . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Living, Death, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Animals

POET’S REGION Latin America

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Elegy, Ode, Metaphor

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