Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks


Pablo Neruda

    All those men were there inside,

when she came in completely naked.

They had been drinking: they began to spit.

Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.

She was a mermaid who had lost her way.

The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.

Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.

Not knowing tears, she didn't cry tears.

Not knowing clothes, she didn't have clothes.

They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette butts,

and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.

She did not speak because she couldn't speak.

Her eyes were the color of distant love,

her twin arms were made of white topaz.

Her lips moved, silently, in a coral light,

and suddenly she left by that door.

Entering the river she was cleaned,

shining like a white rock in the rain,

and without looking back she swam again

swam toward emptiness, swam toward death.

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