Neruda’s color was blue, sky blue, dark blue like the color of the night,
blue like the sweater rolled under his feet, blue like a hurt dog, blue
like a silent blue shore, and blue like the ocean, sometimes sinister and endless
sometimes crystalline, turquoise, the sand on the bottom clean as a blank sheet.
Like the poet, the ocean always changes. Even his name,
taken from Jan Neruda who lived and wrote in Prague
where there is a street named after him, though when tourists see it
they think of Pablo, who, at the age of twenty, wrote:
“Tonight, I can write the saddest lines. Write, for instance:
the night is starred, and blue stars tremble in the distance.”
At nine, I knew this poem by heart and stood in the living room in Bogotá
reciting it for my grandfather who loved to hear it after work.
We lived with him, and he taught me to repeat, remember,
enunciate, where to pause, what syllables to stress. Evenings
before dinner, I recited the poem without paying attention to the words,
except what followed what, never wondering if my grandfather shared
Neruda’s longing, never thinking of a woman who lived somewhere else
in the city and looked too worn out for love, nor the woman
who shared my grandfather’s bed and looked too fat for love.
But he gave me Neruda’s music, and Neruda gave me blue nights,
blue ___________, blue ___________,
and the words to describe your body, how it tastes of wine and apples.