Keeping Quiet — Pablo Neruda

I’ve been listening to an American Public Media podcast On Being, a great program that ties meaning, religion, ethics and ideas, to notions such as the humanity of autism, Einstein’s ethics, or the ethos of the Slow Food movement.

One of today’s programs included a beautiful Pablo Neruda poem, Keeping Quiet.  Listening to his poem reminded me of the Spanish American Poetry class I took a few semesters ago, one of those classes that reaffirmed my decision of being a Spanish major, and allowed me to encounter my second language through art rather than grammar.

Keeping Quiet

Ahora contaremos doce

y nos quedamos todos quietos.

Por una vez sobre la tierra

no hablemos en ningun idioma,

por un segundo detengamonos

no movamos tanto los brazos.

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,

let’s not speak any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

Seria un minuto fragante,

sin prisa, sin locomotoras,

todos estariamos juntos

en una inquietud instantanea.

It would be a delicious moment,

without hurry, without locomotives,

all of us would be together

in a sudden uneasiness.

Los pescadores del mar frio

no harian danio a las ballenas

y el trabajador de la sal

miraria sus manos rotas.

The fishermen in the cold sea

would do no harm to the whales

and the peasant gathering salt

would look at his torn hands.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,

guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,

victorias sin sobrevivientes,

se pondrian un traje puro

y andarian con sus hermanos

por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars of gas, wars of fire,

victories without survivors,

would put on clean clothing

and would walk alongside their brothers

in the shade, without doing a thing.

No se confunda lo ue quiero

con la inaccion definitiva:

la vida es solo lo que se hace,

no quier nada con la muerte.

What I want shouldn’t be confused

with final inactivity:

life alone is what matters,

I want nothing to do with death.

Si no pudimos ser unanimes

moviendo tanto nuestras vidas,

If we weren’t unanimous

about keeping our lives so much in motion,

tal vez no hacer nada una vez,

tal vez un gran silencio pueda

interrumpir esta tristeza,

este no entendernos jamas

y amenazarnos con la muerte,

tal vez la tierra nos ensenie

cuando todo parece muerto

y luego todo estaba vivo.

if perhaps we could do nothing for once,

perhaps a great silence would

interrupt this sadness,

this never understanding ourselves

and threatening ourselves with death,

perhaps the earth is teaching us

when everything seems to be dead

and then everything is alive.

Ahora contare hasta doce

y tu te callas y me voy.

Now I will count to twelve

and keep quiet and I’ll go.

shhhhhhhhhh… still 🙂

4 thoughts on “Keeping Quiet — Pablo Neruda

  1. pacoavocado says:


    Thanks for the visit! There are so many things that unite us, both big and small (dreams, wonder, clouds, fingernails, need for water..etc) but its amazing how easily we forget we’re all living one life on one Earth. Perhaps if we remembered that during the twelve second countdown, we’d stay paused.


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