Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market by Pablo Neruda

Here,
among the market vegetables,
this torpedo
from the ocean
depths,
a missile
that swam,
now
lying in front of me
dead.

Surrounded
by the earth’s green froth
—these lettuces,
bunches of carrots—
only you
lived through
the sea’s truth, survived
the unknown, the
unfathomable
darkness, the depths
of the sea,
the great
abyss,
le grand abîme,
only you:
varnished
black-pitched
witness
to that deepest night.

Only you:
dark bullet
barreled
from the depths,
carrying
only
your
one wound,
but resurgent,
always renewed,
locked into the current,
fins fletched
like wings
in the torrent,
in the coursing
of
the
underwater
dark,
like a grieving arrow,
sea-javelin, a nerveless
oiled harpoon.

Dead
in front of me,
catafalqued king
of my own ocean;
once
sappy as a sprung fir
in the green turmoil,
once seed
to sea-quake,
tidal wave, now
simply
dead remains;
in the whole market
yours
was the only shape left
with purpose or direction
in this
jumbled ruin
of nature;
you are
a solitary man of war
among these frail vegetables,
your flanks and prow
black
and slippery
as if you were still
a well-oiled ship of the wind,
the only
true
machine
of the sea: unflawed,
undefiled,
navigating now
the waters of death.

Pablo Neruda
Translated By Robin Robertson

Note: Chilean poet Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto wrote under the pseudonym of Pablo Neruda. His poems, all written in Spanish, are difficult to translate and as a result only a
small proportion of Neruda’s oeuvre is available in English. Working as a diplomat with communist sympathies, Neruda was never far from political intrigue. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and was nominated for president by the Chilean Communist party. Neruda withdrew his candidacy, so paving the way for Socialist nominee Salvador Allende to become president. Three days after being hospitalised with cancer, at the time of the Chilean coup d’état led by Augusto Pinochet, Neruda died of heart failure. Some suspect the junta had a hand in his death.

Suggested further reading: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/pablo-neruda

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About russellboyle.com

Russell Boyle, of russellboyle.com, is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. Russell is the author of a number of teaching resources, including the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Russell's poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness.
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7 Responses to Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market by Pablo Neruda

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Such talent is befuddling and transforming. I should spend more time here.

  2. Pingback: To See Him Again by Gabriela Mistral | russellboyle

  3. Wow, I will never feel the same again the next time I tuck into a sashimi meal. I’ve never thought of the fish (any fish) as being something so venerable.

  4. indytony says:

    Neruda here turns the tuna into a majesty creature with a fatal flaw.

    When I think of the fish, I can’t help but think of “Charlie Tuna” on the Starkist commercials. After seeing these (and only encountering tuna in small cans), I was surprised to discover that the tuna can be such a great fish.

    • russellboyle says:

      “Charlie Tuna” is new to me, Tony. Yellowfin tuna are found in Australian waters from Torres Strait to eastern Tasmania and from the Northern Territory to south-western Australia. Those fished are up to 190 cm in length and 100 kilograms in weight but if left unfished they can reach a maximum length of 2.1 metres and weigh 175 kilograms. They have a sleek torpedo shape with bright yellow dorsal and anal fins. They are opportunistic carnivores that feed on squid, smaller yellowfin tuna, mackerel, pilchards and crabs. The Victoria Market in central Melbourne is the place from where I purchase fillets of yellowfin. To cook, I sprinkle liberally with tumeric and sear each side of the fillet in a hot pan. Beautiful!

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