Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let鈥檚 not speak in any language;
let鈥檚 stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I鈥檒l count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Neruda, Pablo. Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition. United States, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.


Why I Chose This Poem

It's just that there was a moment, quite early in the pandemic, where my neighborhood was like this:

聽without rush, without engines;
聽we would all be together
聽in a sudden strangeness.

We were all together in the sudden strangeness. And connected by the progress that has allowed disease to travel between continents for centuries and the technology that allows us to never stop threatening.

I feel such sadness. The speaker suggests "Now we will count to twelve" 聽and instead counts alone, bids me to silence, and leaves.