Pablo Neruda Poem by Stephen Dobyns

Pablo Neruda

Rating: 5.0

Pablo Neruda stands on a corner next to a poster
advertising quick weight loss diet aids when I
happen by with half my creative writing class.
He wears a black boating cap and blue cloak draped
loosely over one shoulder, and he stands very still
staring at the clouds where he probably sees the profiles
of famous poets. At his feet lies a small brown dog.
We had heard he was dead and so are surprised and
walk around him several times. He has nice fat cheeks
and after a moment I reach out and touch one, but
gently and he doesn't notice. I look at my students
and I can tell they are ready for anything so I
take out my Swiss Army knife, open the littlest
blade and cut Pablo a tiny bit on the left arm.
He doesn't even blink but I think he begins to
concentrate more intently on the clouds. By now
my students are becoming excited so I open a bigger
blade and carefully cut a sliver of flesh from his
shoulder. I put it on my tongue and it's very sweet
with a faint taste of smoke. I chew it slowly.
Glancing at the sky it now seems a deeper blue.
My students see me smiling and licking my lips
and they too take out Swiss Army knives and start
cutting off small slices, although they don't stay
small for long, because suddenly we are ravenous.
It feels like I haven't eaten for days. I barely
pause to chew my food and I grow angry at my students
for pushing and getting aggressive over the more
succulent bits. One even eats the brown dog.
In practically no time there's nothing left but
a quickly folded pile of clothes on the sidewalk
with the black cap on top. Then we all become
embarrassed and won't look at each other because
we've eaten this famous poet, and even though he
tasted great and we could probably eat another,
and even though the city seems brighter and more
exciting than before, we still feel ashamed to have
surrendered so completely to such animal passions
so we point to our watches and make excuses and
stroll off in our separate directions, but shortly
outside a movie theater, I see one of my students
offering herself to the people waiting in line;
then I see another accosting a crowd at a bus stop;
and a little later in the lobby of a convention hotel
I see a third bothering the legionnaires. And you,
now that I have your attention at last, ignore these
impostors. They're too hungry to be telling the truth.
Feel this arm, this fat thigh. Why would I cheat you?
Even now the moon grows more swollen and the stars
throb deep in their black pockets. Bite me, bite me!

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