luxurious whiteness of useless froth

Ode

To the seagull
high above
the pinewoods
of the coast,
on the wind
the sibilant
syllable of my ode.

*

*

*

Sail,
bright boat,
winged banner,
in my verse,
stitch,
body of silver,
your emblem
across the shirt
of the icy firmament,
oh, aviator,
gentle
serenade of flight,
snow arrow, serene
ship in the transparent storm,
steady, you soar
while
the hoarse wind sweeps
the meadows of the sky.

After your long voyage,
feathered magnolia,
triangle borne
aloft on the air,
slowly you regain
your form,
arranging
your silvery robes, shaping
your bright treasure in an oval,
again a
white bud of flight,
a round
seed,
egg of beauty.

Another
poet
would end here
his triumphant ode.
I cannot
limit myself
to
the luxurious whiteness
of useless froth.
Forgive me,
seagull,
I am
a realist
poet,
photographer of the sky.
You eat,
and eat,
and eat,
there is nothing
you don’t devour,
on the waters of the bay
you bark
like a beggar’s dog,
you pursue
the last
scrap of
fish gut,
you peck
at your white sisters,
you steal
your despicable prize,
a rotting clump
of floating garbage,
decayed
tomatoes,
the discarded
rubbish of the cove.
But
in you
it is transformed
into clean wing,
white geometry,
the ecstatic line of flight.
That is why
snowy anchor,
aviator,
I celebrate you as you are:
your insatiable voraciousness,
your screech in the rain,
or at rest
a snowflake blown
from the storm,
at peace or in flight,
seagull,
I consecrate to you
my earthbound words,
my clumsy attempt at flight;
let’s see whether you scatter
your birdseed in my ode.

Pablo Neruda

Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden

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