Is peace the peace of the dove?
Does the leopard wage war?
Why does the professor teach
the geography of death?
What happens to swallows
who are late for school?
Is it true they scatter
transparent letters across the sky?
Pablo Neruda finished The Book of Questions just months before his death in 1973. It is comprised entirely of brief questions, but dips deeply into the “deep well of perpetuity” and other common sources of his works. He has been labelled an “existentialist” poet, amongst other sobriquets which have the habit of attaching themselves to great artists, placed there like sticky buns, by lesser souls struggling to come to grips with a talent that is as ephemeral as an early morning mist drifting ghostly across a water meadow.
In these last poems, Neruda displays the wide eyed wonder of a child, as his young mind gradually opens onto the larger world beyond his immediate experience. They are pure of heart and truly visionary and elemental as he surrenders himself to the questions without clinging too firmly to the answers. His faith in questions is fully apparent as his never ending quest to learn all that has been forgotten, so that it might be learned all over again. The endless, circular journey of discovery is everything.