Looking at tea-leaves

From Pablo Neruda Sonnet 17

You’re not a mirror where reflected, I
can affirm myself. You are not a watercolored love
or honeysuckle dusk, never soft as dew; but you
are oaken-rooted, self-cathedraled, but as
air-balloons your being brim-fill me with the
honesty of night, with promises of tea-plant
fragrance picked by young Darjeeling girls, and that
secrecy of morning hale that never
really fell. You are not the melody of blooms,

and neither stem from velvet nor from silk but
from a strength of leather; from a breath that carries
need, decisive roads for me to follow. Since in
your voice there is a bell that in itself
is as resilient as a lighthouse; you’re like the
velvetest of nights when you can follow light,
the steady flashes, heartbeats in the brightness of
above, your brow is thunder barely hidden
but you’re still much more than flowers.

You are the grace of autumn winds and thanks
to you, I sleep-walk very very close to
abysses of uncertainty, and filled with your
unpromised gaze, I mimic in an almost love
the trapeze artist that clings to ropes in a
manic tension at the sullen face of certain
death, and as a fall before she meet the solid
ground you are the heat of kilns, a fragrance

from the leaves of nightshade darkly risen,
a graveyard of concussions, yet from
you I’m veined; you are my warmth at night, the
reason that I barefoot walk on earth
you are a purpose, a parasite that lives,
consumes me and burning cold and darkly
we are the ember of each other, destroyers in
possessions and in a break of vows my
hands are wailing for an end, your body.


Today it’s time for another fun form with De at dVerse MTB. It’s called the golden shovel, and it’s done by using the last words of a favorite lines from another poet’s poem. If you read the last lines of my drafty poem you will get four lines from Pablo Neruda’s sonnet 17. Try it yourself and join us at 3 PM CET.

35 responses to “Looking at tea-leaves

  1. Wow, your poem is something else, Bjorn! I can’t access the new dVerse Poets Pub Meeting the Bar until this evening but it looks interesting. I love the lines: ‘You are not a watercolored love
    or honeysuckle dusk, never soft as dew; but you
    are oaken-rooted, self-cathedraled, but as
    air-balloons your being brim-fill me with the
    honesty of night,’ See you later!

  2. You have penned this form well, even managing to produce a sonnet. I am impressed. (smiles) Interesting how the tone of the sonnet changes from beginning to end. The first two stanzas seem to indicate a beautiful love; but the last two stanzas go to the dark side!

  3. love the mix of metaphors in this and the use of “negative” metaphors (you are not…) too. Looking forward to seeing the prompt!

  4. This form is all new to me. Your rambling romantic sonnet, that clearly uses those Neruda end words, inspired me to jump in as well. I’m not a sonnet kind of guy, unless prompted to write one. I liked the Neruda poems with one word lines; whatever they were called.

  5. Splendid work with this fun, challenging prompt, Bjorn. I hope to work it tomorrow as I’m still in catch-up mood.

    Your poem is breath-taking. Written as it is, in the second person, you make us want to know more of the person addressed and this relationship. For me, I felt like I was reading Shakespeare.

  6. Whew, that ending! In your beautifully flowing words you give us a hint of this force to be reckoned with but then in the last two verses all is unleashed…the power shaking us to the core with its might! Wow…LOVED this, Bjorn!

  7. This is beautiful! It’s almost as if you found the extra words hidden within the original lines and drew them out. My favorite line is: “Since in
    your voice there is a bell that in itself is as resilient as a lighthouse.” This is a striking description of someone’s voice.

  8. If I wrote down outstanding, incredible, beautiful lines, I would copy the whole poem to past here. This is just spectacular. My third reading and it only improves. I wonder about the glory of this on the 100th reading.

  9. This is exhaustively fantastic Bjorn. To think Neruda’s are normally of short sentences but you brought out the best in his sonnets of longer sentences. He would have been happy with this!


  10. Had a peak at the prompt this morning and couldn’t wait to see what you had written in response. Amazing, Björn! Beautifully done. Beautifully.

  11. Oh my gosh!!! Oh my gosh!! …the heat of kilns – it doesn’t get much hotter than that. This is amazing in its form and how the tenor shifts at the end. So very very well done!

  12. Wow! I’m impressed, and a little jealous of the lady who inspires such words. I especially like this: “your brow is thunder barely hidden.”

  13. Wow! This is so erudite and so sophisticated in that you have taken on – and rendered so well – a number of advanced (to me, anyway) poetic methods. The title, as a herald to the content of the piece, is absolutely perfect.

  14. Beautiful language and images in this one, a soothing and affirming ode, at least in my perception. I loved the line “you are so much more than flowers”.

  15. Never dug the golden shovel into my words. This is one I have to try. And might I saybyour poem is impressive
    Have a nice Tuesday Bjorn

    Much love…

  16. I wish i had the energy to even attempt to write a poem this intense. The flavour of Neruda is there in the comparisons, but who else would compare his love to a parasite but a scientist? I think this is an amazing example of your skill and art.

  17. Oh, this is so intense and I love your use of words like this, “self-cathedraled” and the deeply grounded feeling through the entirety…rich work, Bjorn…so enjoyed.

  18. Quite a form, fun to write and to read. I’m glad it ends with a telling of the need for the other’s body. Sensuous.

  19. Good lord Bjorn, this is just remarkable. I love it and cannot begin picking out phrases and images that speak to me as there are so many. But you had me at “self-cathedraled” WOW

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