The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 13 no. 1


Penelope Shuttle

The Keening


Yo voy a cerrar los ojos
“I am going to close my eyes.”
                —Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid

I close my eyes—
I can see you better like this,
your head and high-domed brow,
your sea-green eye,
your eyelid, patient eyelash

You are lost to me forever
but I am looking
at your canst no more temple, 
your ear crammed full of silence,
singer’s blank mouth,
lips, the upper, the lower,
their rue and rowan

I feast my closed eyes
on your jaw, throat and neck,
your shoulder turned forever from the wheel,
your right arm so quietly past its prime

Ah slowcoach,
how clearly I see
your clean-pared fingernails,
your strong wrist, 
and resting heart—the vial of your heart
so long our wellkept secret,
but now set aside for ever...

I can’t bear to look there,
not even through closed eyes,
nor contemplate the rapids of your bloodstream
stemmed forever,
so I gaze at all your dear limbs

Mine is the hard scrutiny
of the aubergiste looking down
at the small-change tip in her hand,
(though I keep no inn),
or of the captain searching no-man’s land
for snipers, yet I’m no warrior

I look at your back, your flanks
where my smoothing hand so often lingered,
loving your human body,
le corps humain,
and at your sex

To which we gave no nickname,
at your skin’s familiar landmarks,
frecks and specks and brindles—
I yearn over the vineyard of you...
not forgetting to look
at thigh, poor knee and calf,
your feet Time is not fit to wash


Your bones, the fallen mast of your spine,
yes, those also I see—

I know I’m forbidden to touch you,
for we are no longer one flesh;
I may not give you a kiss of life,
my westerly not bring joy of rain
to the parchlands,
but I am allowed this thrift of looking,
second sight of grief

Day and night I look—
your head, your heel, your heart—
for love blindfolded is love still—
This looking is what is called mourning,
and this is how I have learned to mourn.