Last year, I got an illustrated hardcover edition of Pablo Neruda’s book, Art of Birds, translated by Jack Schmitt with drawings by Jack Unruh. It was a bit of an accident, since I thought I was ordering a bilingual edition, and I wish this volume included the original Spanish. But even without the originals, this is a very cool addition to my Neruda collection. Every poem (with the exception of the first and last) is about one specific species of bird, and many of them are right up there with Neruda’s best and more well-known poems.
The following poem is about the austral blackbird, which I had never heard of before, so here is a link to read a little more about this bird, see a picture, and listen to 30 seconds of its unique song.
Austral Blackbird (curaeus curaeus)
Whoever looks at me face-to-face
I shall kill with two knives,
with two furious lightning bolts:
with two icy black eyes.
I was not born for captivity.
I have a wild army,
a militant militia,
a battalion of black bullets:
no seeded field can withstand.
I fly, devour, screech, and move on,
rise and fall with a thousand wings:
nothing can stop my determination,
the black order of my feathers.
My soul is a burned log,
my plumage pure coal:
my soul and suit are black:
that’s why I dance in the white sky.
I am the Black Floridor.