SYMPOSIUM II: “Only Death” by Pablo Neruda

SYMPOSIUM II: A Live Integration of Jazz & Poetry

On April 6th at 9:00pm, the doors of The Engine Room opened to reveal an exceptionally inviting atmosphere. The second SYMPOSIUM would begin in about an hour but the excitement was palpable. I will periodically post video’s from the evenings activities. The message behind the event was to fully integrate imagination and improvisation in the performance of poetry and jazz. The expression of the musical ensemble was directed by my “notation” which can best be described as a 2-column score. The poem on the left represents the time and contains various instructions for the poets while the right column instructs the musicians various instrumentation, tempo, groove or soloist. SYMPOSIUM II contained zero rehearsals.

In this video, I am reading “Only Death” by Pablo Neruda with Nadav Spigelman (bass) accompanying me. Joe Goldberg later enter’s with flute.

Only Death
by Pablo Neruda

There are lone cemeteries.
tombs filled with soundless bones,
the heart passing through a tunnel
dark, dark, dark,
like a shipwreck we die inward,
like smothering in our hearts,
like slowly falling from our skin down to our soul.

There are corpses,
there are feet of sticky, cold gravestone,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
like a bark without a dog,
coming from certain bells, from certain tombs,
growing in the dampness like teardrops or raindrops.

I see alone, at times,
coffins with sails
weighing anchor with pale corpses, with dead-tressed women,
with bakers white as angels,
with pensive girls married to notaries,
coffins going up the vertical river of the dead,
the dark purple river,
upstream, with the sails swollen by the sound of death,
swollen by the silent sound of death.

To resonance comes death
like a shoe without a foot, like a suit without a man,
she comes to knock with a stoneless and fingerless ring,
she comes to shout without mouth, without tongue, without throat.
Yet her steps sound
and her dress sounds, silent, like a tree.

I know little, I am not well acquainted, I can scarcely see,
but I think that her song has the color of moist violets,
of violets accustomed to the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death is green,
with the sharp dampness of a violet leaf
and its dark color of exasperated winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
she licks the ground looking for corpses,
death is in the broom,
it is death’s tongue looking for dead bodies,
it is death’s needle looking for thread.

Death is on the cots:
in the slow mattresses, in the black blankets
she lives stretched out, and she suddenly blows:
she blows a dark sound that puffs out sheets,
and there are beds sailing to a port
where she is waiting, dressed as an admiral.


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