The Enigmas

You have asked me what the lobster weaves between its golden claws,
and I respond to you: The sea knows.
You say to me, “What is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell?
What is it waiting for?”
I say to you, it waits as you do for time.
You ask me whom the embrace of macrocystis algae will reach?
Puzzle it out, riddle it out at a given time, in a given sea that I know.
Without doubt you will ask me about the cursed ivory of the narwhal,
so that I will answer you
in what way the marine unicorn, harpooned, agonizes.
Do you ask me perhaps about the kingfisher’s feathers that quiver
in the pure origins of the southern tide?
And have you considered the crystalline construction of the sea anemone,
without doubt
one question more, spouting it now?
You want to know the electric material of the spines of the deep?
The stalactite navy that walks, breaking itself?
The bait of the angler fish, the music extended
in the depths like a thread in the water?

I want to say to you that the sea knows this, that the life in its coffers
is wide as the sand, innumerable and pure
and among the bloodthirsty grapes time has polished
the hardness of a petal, the light of a jellyfish
and has spouted the branch of its coral threads
from a cornucopia of infinite mother of pearl.

I am but the empty net that goes ahead
of human eyes, dead in those shadows,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle,
longitudes on the timid globe of an orange.

I walked like you scraping
the interminable star,
and in my net, in the night, I awoke nude,
the only prisoner, a fish enclosed by the wind.

Pablo Neruda, from Canto general
translated by Eric Stephenson