The Chilean Pablo Neruda wrote 100 Love Sonnets in 1959, and dedicated the work to the woman who would one day be his wife, Matilde Urratia. (He calls her his wife in this piece, although they didn’t marry until 1966.) He wrote:
My beloved wife, I suffered while I was writing these misnamed “sonnets”; they hurt me and caused me grief, but the happiness I feel in offering them to you is vast as a savanna. When I set this task for myself, I knew very well that down the right sides of sonnets, with elegant discriminating taste, poets of all times have arranged rhymes that sound like silver or crystal or cannonfire. But—with great humility—I made these sonnets out of wood; I gave them the sound of that opaque pure substance, and that is how they should reach your ears. Walking in forests or on beaches, along hidden lakes, in latitudes sprinkled with ashes, you and I have picked up pieces of pure bark; pieces of wood subject to the comings and goings of water and the weather. Out of such softened relics, then with hatchet and machete and pocketknife, I built little houses, so that your eyes, which I adore and sing to, might live in them. Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life.
This is not the reading. It just gives you some context. It’s really just me trying to slip more Neruda into your poetic diet, honestly. Anyway, this reading is great for the those who love metaphor and exalted declarations of eternal love. It’s also an amazing two-person reading for couples who have bilingual attendees – the second reader is needed for a “call and response” style delivery of the original Spanish line by one, then the English translation by the other.
No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.
Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.
Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.
I do not love you as if you were the salt-rose, or the topaz,
or the arrows of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that does not bloom and carries,
hidden within itself, the light of those flowers.
Thanks to your love, darkly in my body lives
the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you so, because I know no other way than this,
in which there is no “I” or “you,”
so close that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.