A poem by Andrew F Giles


Then – as diamonds – stratospherical broadcasts,
cast out live across the sea.

His homeland glinted, dressed up
in bijouterie,
but – held to the light –
the faultlines of el último respiro. Breathed
in, the elements became fast,
masters of magical acts:
somehow, on
a back street of history – blockaded, impassable –
he had joined
the chapter of the wave,
learnt the secrets of brine and seaweed, his face
aglow, his eyelid and eye
those of an obstinate underwater star,

his feet curved
round a circular sea
pressed harder
than blue stone.

What frequency, what soundwave rolled in
& ignited? The nuclear Spanish sun
that cracked the earth’s heart,
fed off poisonous gas
& looped, murmuring to him, dangerously close
to his water planet?

Or was it the wild monsoon, that strange gathering
– muggy sub-aqua incantations, truth, unseated
in cataracts with a hiss of fury –
wide-bellied ozone pressed
against the barometer,
waiting to be unleashed?
Footnote: This version of Pablo Neruda’s poem Monzones – which begins “Luego me fui a vivir a contramar” (‘Eventually, I went to live across the sea’) – started life as a translation-as-exercise. It took on, like Neruda’s swirling, temporally ambiguous poetry – and the wild image of the monsoon itself (‘la insólita asamblea’), recurrent in Neruda’s poetry – a life of its own. It considers Neruda’s work taken up in a great monsoon and disseminated, as if on a journey, across the world of language.
Andrew F Giles has work in Ambit, Magma, Equinox, Poetry Scotland, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems etc, has written for The Spectator & The Scottish Review of Books & edits Scotland’s online literary arts & culture journal New Linear Perspectives. He was recently included in New Writing Dundee 7, & the SPL’s Best Scottish Poetry anthology 2011 edited by Roddy Lumsden, & longlisted for The Rialto’s poetry competition judged by Sir Andrew Motion. His article John Burnside’s Poetics of Failure: a Havoc of Signs recently appeared in US journal JERRY.