14 March 2010

SUNDAY POETRY: "ODE TO A LARGE TUNA IN THE MARKET"


No better time for Neruda's poignant poem than today... as the 175 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meet this week in Qatar to debate, among many things, giving protection to the Atlantic bluefin tuna via an Appendix I listing. This extraordinary predator, the tiger of the seas (not the chicken), is the most expensive food on Earth. A single bluefin recently sold in a Tokyo market for $175,000. Are we rich enough to leave it be?

Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market
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.

Translated by Robin Robertson















Photo (top) courtesy WWF International
Photo (above) courtesy NOAA
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