Down from the Northern Desert
into the lush South forest
lakes ringed with half-hidden chalets
the Volcan Osorno
posing for gorgeous postcards.
We spend a day in the Puerto Montt mist
waiting for the weekly boat to Chiloe
where dolphins leap
to look at us on deck.
the rain has stopped
crowds idle out of the closing shops.
We sightsee nothing in particular
Maria Elena, the prim librarian from Valparaiso,
who knows I like literature,
Would you like to meet Pablo Neruda?
Sure, why not? I answer theoretically,
but she s gone.
Then she reappears from the crowd
hand in hand
with Neruda, an apparition from a dustjacket,
enthusiastic and earthy as his odes,
happy to meet me
collaborating with an American photographer
with its fishing villages and ancient customs . . .
When he leaves, still expansive, smiling,
(it s a pleasure to know me),
I didn t know you knew Neruda,
I say to Maria Elena.
I didn t, she says,
I just thought you d like to meet him.
Three days later
as we stroll down a dirt road
behind the University in Valdivia,
coming the other way,
his arm around a blond,
He waves and smiles in recognition.
Ah, what a place!
Where great poets are friends with everyone!