Translating Neruda

I haven’t written a good poem in a while; it’s been even longer since I translated anything.  Still, this is one of my favorite pieces, and I’ve yet to find an English translation that I can love “as certain dark things are loved.” So despite the fact that it is likely redundant and uncalled for, here’s my addition to the conversation.  I’m aware that I took several liberties.

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Sherre Vernon

I do not love you as though you were a sea-side rose,
burning topaz, or an arrow of carnations spreading fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between shadow and soul.

I love you like the plant that will not bloom, but carries
hidden inside herself the light of distant flowers.
And by the grace of your love, that deep musk, having risen
from the earth, lives buried in my skin.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you directly, simply and without pride.
I love you like this because I know no other way

than this: where I am not and you are not.
So close that your hand on my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dream.


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