Café Dissensus (New Delhi) carried an astounding article by Anidrita Saikia in a recent edition, an article to which I have responded with a bilingual poem, below.

The author quotes Neruda’s own Memoirs in which he confesses to the rape of a domestic servant, a woman of the lowly Dalit caste, in Sri Lanka:

“I got a strong grip on her wrist and stared into her eyes. There was no language I could talk with her. Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and was soon naked in my bed. Her waist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thousand-year-old sculptures from the south of India. It was the coming together of a man and a statue. She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. . . .”

Bring Her Ripe Tomatoes Now

Bring her ripe tomatoes now, Neruda
The Dalit woman you raped
Bring them to her
On a silver tray
Kneel before her
And beg her forgiveness
She is flesh and bone
Not carved stone

She does not know your language
Or your ways
But she will understand you
Little by little
If you beg sincerely to be forgiven
She is flesh and bone
Not carved stone

Do not speak to her in Spanish
Do not speak to her in poetry
Speak only in silence
Your head bent low in shame
Seek forgiveness
Seek salvation
She is flesh and bone
Not carved stone

Tabhair Trátaí Aibí Di Anois

Tabhair trátaí aibí di anois, a Neruda,
An bhean Dhalatach a d’éignigh thú
Tabhair chuici iad
Ar thráidire airgid
Téigh ar do ghlúine os a comhair
Agus iarr maithiúnas uirthi
Feoil is cnámha í
Ní cloch ghreanta í

Ní thuigeann sise do theangasa
Ná do shlite
Ach tuigfidh sí
De réir a chéile
Má impíonn tú uirthi maithiúnas a thabhairt duit
Feoil is cnámha í
Ní cloch ghreanta í

Ná labhair Spáinnis léi
Ná labhair léi i bhfoirm véarsaíochta
Labhair i dtost agus i dtost amháin
Do cheann cromtha agus náire ort
Iarr maithiúnas uirthi
Agus do shlánú
Feoil is cnámha í
Ní cloch ghreanta í