To a Foot, from Its Child
by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Ernie Jones
The child’s foot still doesn’t know it’s a foot,
and it wants to be a butterfly or an apple.
But later, the glass and the stones,
the streets, the stairs,
and the roads of the hard earth
managed to teach the foot that it cannot fly,
that it cannot be a round fruit on a branch.
And then the child’s foot
was downcast, fell
was a prisoner,
condemned to live in a shoe.
Little by little, without light
it went about knowing the world in its own way,
without knowing the other foot, pent up
and exploring life like a blind man.
Those soft nails,
that cluster of crystal
hardened itself, became
an opaque thing, of hard horn,
and the child’s little petals
flattened, lost their balance,
took the shape of eyeless reptiles,
of the worm’s triangular head.
And they became calloused,
with tiny deathly volcanoes,
But this blind man walked
without pause, without stopping
hour after hour,
one foot and the other foot,
now a man’s
or a woman’s,
through the fields, the mines,
the warehouses and the offices,
this foot with its shoe
had barely the time
to be naked in love or in dreams,
it walked, they walked
until the whole body stopped.
And then it went down
into the earth and knew nothing,
because all of everything was dark there,
it did not know it was no longer a foot,
or if they had buried it so it could fly
or so it could become