Sunday Poem Series
The Old Women of the Ocean
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Jodey Bateman
To the solemn sea the old women come
With their shawls knotted around their necks
With their fragile feet cracking.
They sit down alone on the shore
Without moving their eyes or their hands
Without changing the clouds or the silence.
The obscene sea breaks and claws
Rushes downhill trumpeting
Shakes its bull’s beard.
The gentle old ladies seated
As if in a transparent boat
They look at the terrorist waves.
Where will they go and where have they been?
They come from every corner
They come from our own lives.
Now they have the ocean
The cold and burning emptiness
The solitude full of flames.
They come from all the pasts
From houses which were fragrant
From burnt-up evenings.
They look, or don’t look, at the sea
With their walking sticks they draw signs in the sand
And the sea erases their calligraphy.
The old women get up and go away
With their fragile bird feet
While the waves flood in
Traveling naked in the wind.