Pablo Neruda: The Separate Rose

These lines are from Pablo Neruda's work The Separate Rose, inspired by the poet's visit to Easter Island in 1971 (translation by William O'Daly). With Pope Francis spurring us to consider anew what Catholicism in particular, and religion in general, is actually for and what it could be, Neruda's reflections resonate.


They taught us to respect the church,
not to cough, not to spit in the atrium,
not to wash our clothes upon the alter,
but it's not so: life tears apart religions,
and on this island the Wind God inhabits
the only church living and true:
our lives come and go, dying, making love:
here on Easter Island where everything is alter,
where everything is a workroom for the unknown,
a woman nurses her newborn
upon the same steps that her gods tread.

Here, they live! But do we?
We transients, followers of the wrong star,
were shipwrecked on this island as in a lagoon,
like in a lake in which all distances end,
on a motionless journey, so difficult for men.


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