April 18, 2008

Pablo Neruda's To the Foot From Its Child

A child's foot doesn't know it's a foot yet
And it wants to be a butterfly or an apple
But then the rocks and pieces of glass,
the streets, the stairways
and the roads of hard earth
keep teaching the foot that it can't fly,
that it can't be a round fruit on a branch.
Then the child's foot
was defeated, it fell
in battle,
it was a prisoner,
condemned to life in a shoe.

Little by little without light
it got acquainted with the world in its own way
without knowing the other imprisoned foot
exploring life like a blind man.

Those smooth toe nails
of quartz in a bunch,
got harder, they changed into
an opaque substance, into hard horn
and the child's little petals
were crushed, lost their balance,
took the form of a reptile without eyes,
with triangular heads like a worm's.
And they had callused over,
they were covered
with tiny lava fields of death,
a hardening unasked for.
But this blind thing kept going
without surrender, without stopping
hour after hour.
One foot after another,
now as a man,
or a woman,
through the fields, the mines,
the stores, the government bureaus,
outside, inside,
this foot worked with its shoes,
it hardly had time
to be naked in love or in sleep
one foot walked, both feet walked
until the whole man stopped.

And then it went down
into the earth and didn't know anything
because there everything was dark,
it didn't know it was no longer a foot
or if they buried it so it could fly
or so it could
be an apple.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
translated by Jodey Bateman (the original after the jump)


EL pie del niño aún no sabe que es pie,
y quiere ser mariposa o manzana.

Pero luego los vidrios y las piedras,
las calles, las escaleras,
y los caminos de la tierra dura
van enseñando al pie que no puede volar,
que no puede ser fruto redondo en una rama.
El pie del niño entonces
fue derrotado, cayó
en la batalla,
fue prisionero,
condenado a vivir en un zapato.

Poco a poco sin luz
fue conociendo el mundo a su manera,
sin conocer el otro pie, encerrado,
explorando la vida como un ciego.

Aquellas suaves uñas
de cuarzo, de racimo,
se endurecieron, se mudaron
en opaca substancia, en cuerno duro,
y los pequeños pétalos del niño
se aplastaron, se desequilibraron,
tomaron formas de reptil sin ojos,
cabezas triangulares de gusano.
Y luego encallecieron,
se cubrieron
con mínimos volcanes de la muerte,
inaceptables endurecimientos.

Pero este ciego anduvo
sin tregua, sin parar
hora tras hora,
el pie y el otro pie,
ahora de hombre
o de mujer,
por los campos, las minas,
los almacenes y los ministerios,
afuera, adentro,
este pie trabajó con su zapato,
apenas tuvo tiempo
de estar desnudo en el amor o el sueño,
caminó, caminaron
hasta que el hombre entero se detuvo.

Y entonces a la tierra
bajó y no supo nada,
porque allí todo y todo estaba oscuro,
no supo que había dejado de ser pie,
si lo enterraban para que volara
o para que pudiera
ser manzana.

posted at 11:06 PM by raul

Filed under: noted

TAGS: neruda (1) poetry (5)


04/25/08 12:44 PM

thank you so much for this!
luca (11 months) just got his first pair of big boy shoes.
i thought i'd be so happy, excited, but it was very sad. he looked so old all of a sudden and i realized he isn't a baby anymore.
he was angry at them for a few hours - and at me too, it seemed - but now he's trotting around, enjoying the sound of them clapping against the wood floor.

04/25/08 04:52 PM

a clear point, beautifully said ...

09/24/14 02:21 AM

Pablo Neruda`s poem `To the Foot from its Child` talks of predicament of an individual caught in the grip of an oppressive system. Aspiring for freedom and growth under such a system would be futile.Becoming opaque and hard the individual lives a worm like existence. But, redemption is suggested at the end of the poem. Once the system collapses, there is a hope for a benevolent regime creating space for an individual`s freedom and growth.

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