29 May 2011

"The General Song Of Humanity", by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

On the coast of Chile where Neruda lived
    it's well known that
       seabirds often steal
                     letters out of mailboxes
                       which they would like to scan
                                for various reasons
Shall I enumerate the reasons?
        they are quite clear
                even given the silence of birds
                                   on the subject
          (except when they speak of it
                          among themselves
                          between cries)

First of all
they steal the letters because
      they sense that the General Song
             of the words of everyone
                     hidden in these letters
      must certainly bear the keys
             to the heart itself of humanity
                              which the birds themselves
                                   have never been able to fathom
               (in fact entertaining much doubt
      that there actually are
hearts in humans)
And then these birds have a further feeling
                 that their own general song
   might somehow be enriched
                           by these strange cries of humans
       (What a weird bird-brain idea
             that our twitterings might enlighten them)

    But when they stole away
                       with Neruda's own letters
               out of his mailbox at Isla Negra
          they were in fact stealing back their own Canto General
    which he had originally gathered
from them
  with their omnivorous & ecstatic
                                  sweeping vision

But now that Neruda is dead
      no more such letters are written
          and they must play it by ear again-
                the high great song
                                in the heart of our blood & silence

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