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Keeping Quiet

 

Now we will count to twelve and
we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second, and not
move our arms so much.

 

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

 

Fishermen in the
cold sea would
not harm whales and
the man gathering
salt would not look
at his hurt hands.

 

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes and
walk about with their brothers in
the shade, doing nothing.

 

What I want is not to be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about…

 

about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence might
interrupt this sadness of never
understanding ourselves and of
threatening ourselves to death.

 

Now, I’ll count up to twelve
And you keep quiet and I will go.

 

Pablo Neruda,
Translated by Alastair Reid

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