Martin Espada reads
The Soldiers in the Garden
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Isla Negra, Chile, September 1973 After the coup, the soldiers appeared in Neruda’s garden one night, raising lanterns to interrogate the trees, cursing at the rocks that tripped them. From the bedroom window they could have been the conquistadores of drowned galleons, back from the sea to finish plundering the coast. The poet was dying; cancer flashed through his body and left him rolling in the bed to kill the flames. Still, when the lieutenant stormed upstairs, Neruda faced him and said: There is only one danger for you here: poetry. The lieutenant brought his helmet to his chest, apologized to señor Neruda and squeezed himself back down the stairs. The lanterns dissolved one by one from the trees. For thirty years we have been searching for another incantation to make the solders vanish from the garden.