Pablo Neruda – Keeping Quiet

“Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.”

– Pablo Neruda

‘Let’s stop for one second,’ wrote Pablo Neruda in his poem A Callarse, which is translated as Keeping Quiet or Keeping Still. The poem is a manifesto for the very personal and very political act of doing nothing. In it, he imagined a world that stops to catch its breath for a moment, in the way that much of the planet is currently on hiatus from the hum of its usual activity, and he pondered the ‘sudden strangeness’ that would emerge. A beautiful and touching poem about the sadness of ‘never understanding ourselves’ and how simply stopping and listening to the silence might bring us together with a new kind of wisdom.


Keeping Quiet

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas,
wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.



Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

From: Extravagaria

4 thoughts on “Pablo Neruda – Keeping Quiet”

  1. When did Neruda write the poem feature today April 15,2020. I can’t see that information on the Internet.

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