The pigeons visited Pushkin
And pecked at his melancholy
The gray bronze statue talks to the pigeons
With all the patience of bronze.

The modern pigeons
Don’t understand him
The language of birds now
Is different.
They make droppings on Pushkin
Then fly to Mayakovsky.
His statue seems to be of lead.
He seems to have been
Made of bullets.
They didn’t sculpt his tenderness –
Just his beautiful arrogance.
If he is a wrecker
Of tender things
How can he live among violets
In the moonlight
In love?

Something is always missing in these statues
Which are fixed rigidly in the direction of their times.
Either they are slashed
Into the air with a combat knife
Or they are left seated
Transformed into a tourist in a garden.
And other people, tired of riding horseback
No longer can dismount and eat there.
Statues are really bitter things
Because time piles up
In deposits on them, oxidizing them
And even the flowers come to cover
Their cold feet. The flowers aren’t kisses.
They’ve also come there to die.

White birds in the daytime
And poets at night
And a great ring of shoes surrounding
The iron Mayakovosky
And his frightful bronze jacket
And his iron unsmiling mouth.

One time when it was late and I was almost asleep
On the edge of the river, far off in the city
I could hear the verses rising, the psalms
Of the reciters in succession.
Was Mayakovsky listening?
Do statues listen?


Pablo Neruda

– Translated by Jodey Bateman

Used with permission from

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