Pablo Neruda: “Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks”

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

All those men were there inside
When she came in, completely naked
They had been drinking and began to spit
But having come from the river, she understood nothing
She was a mermaid and was lost
Their insults flowed down her perfect, smooth flesh
Their filth enveloped her golden breasts
But not knowing tears, she did not weep tears
Not knowing clothes, she didn’t put on clothes
They tattooed her with cigarettes and burnt corks
They laughed till they fell to the floor of the bar
But not knowing words, she didn’t say a word
Her eyes were the color of distant love
Her arms were like two topaz twins
Her lips were cut by the coral light
And then, suddenly, she just walked out the door
She entered the river and was clean again
She shone like a white stone lying in the rain
And without looking backwards, she swam once again
Out towards nothingness, out towards death

Pablo Neruda

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2013

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