It’s no coincidence that this is the most read post in the last 2 1/2 years…The Dictators

The Dictators by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Scott Nicolay
Originally posted on February 10, 2017 by Miriam Sagan
My ongoing gratitude to Scott Nicolay for this beautiful translation.

Los dictadores

Ha quedado un olor entre los cañaverales;
una mezcla de sangre y cuerpo, un penetrante
pétalo nauseabundo.
Entre los cocoteros las tumbas están llenas
de huesos demolidos, de estertores callados.
El delicado sátrapa conversa
con copas, cuellos y cordones de oro.
El pequeño palacio brilla como un reloj
y las rápidas risas enguantadas
atraviesan a veces los pasillos
y se reúnen a las voces muertas
y a las bocas azules frescamente enterradas.
El llanto está escondido como una planta
cuya semilla cae sin cesar sobre el suelo
y hace crecer sin luz sus grandes hojas ciegas.
El odio se ha formado escama a escama,
golpe a golpe, en el agua terrible del pantano,
con un hocico lleno de légamo y silencio.

The dictators

A smell lingered over the canefields;

a penetrating blend of blood and bodies,

of sickening flower petals.

The tombs between the coco palms are stuffed

with ruined bones, with stifled death-rattles.

The fastidious satrap holds converse

with golden goblets, collars, and braid.

The little palace gleams like a pocketwatch

and the rapid, gloved laughter

traverses the corridors from time to time

encountering the dead voices

and the blue mouths, freshly buried.

The lament is concealed like a plant

whose seed falls ceaselessly over the soil

and whose great blind leaves grow without light.

The hatred has grown from height to height,

Blow by blow, in the horrible water of the swamp,

With a snout full of silence and of silt.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

2 thoughts on “It’s no coincidence that this is the most read post in the last 2 1/2 years…The Dictators

  1. Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
    At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

    But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
    it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

    the ten thick worms his fingers,
    his words like measures of weight,

    the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
    the glitter of his boot-rims.

    Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
    he toys with the tributes of half-men.

    One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
    He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

    He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
    One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

    He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
    He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

    Osip Mandelstam
    (trans. merwin/brown)

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