Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Parral, Chile in 1904 to a poor railway worker and a schoolteacher who died of tuberculosis during his infancy. At the age of ten, Basoalto began to write poetry. At twelve years old, the budding poet met Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral who encouraged his work. In 1920, while still in his teens, Basoalto published poems in the magazine Selva Austral adopting the pen name Pablo Neruda because his family discouraged his writing efforts and did not approve of his literary ambition.

In 1924, Neruda grew to international acclaim with the publishing of Veinte poemes De Amor Y Una Cancion, which is even today one of his most widely read works. At 23, the young poet was appointed by the Chilean Government as consul in Burma. During his time in East Asia and various european countries following his appointment, Neruda befriended many other writers including Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Neruda married Maria Antonieta Hageenaar in 1936, but the couple's romance was brief and they seperated in 1936. In later parts of the decade and during the 1940s, Neruda lived with Argentinian painter Delia Del Carril who began to encourage Neruda in taking an interest in Left Wing politics. The couple married in 1943, but the marriage was unrecognized in Neruda's home country.

Neruda was appointed as Consul to Spain in 1935, but was forced to resign because of his siding with the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. As a consul in Paris in 1939, Neruda helped refugees from Spain resettle in Chile.

In 1943, (the same year he married Del Carril) Neruda joined the Communist Party. In 1945, he was elected to the Chilean Senate. Neruda was extremely critical of President Gonzalez Videla, and wrote several articles denouncing the right. When the goverment was taken over by right-wing extemists, Neruda feared for his life and fled to Mexico. During his exile, Neruda published Canto General, which consisted of over 340 poems. During this time, Neruda was awarded the Stalin Prize and the Lenin Peace Prize and the poet travelled extensively, visiting Russia and China.

In 1952, the political climate in Chile changed and the Videlista factions of the goverment were left powerless. The orders to arrest Political Leftists (including Neruda] were rescinded and Neruda returned home. Although he continued to travel, Neruda set up a permanent home in Chile on the Isla Negra. In 1955 he and Del Carril separated. He continued to write and produced volumes of poetry and verse drama at a prolific rate (over forty over his lifetime). In 1966, Neruda married Chilean Singer Matilde Urrutia who was the inspiration for many of his later love poems.

When the Socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president, Neruda was appointed Chile's ambassador to France. Neruda died of leukemia in Santiago, Chile in 1973, shortly after the military coup that overthrew Allende and placed Pinochet in power.

Information taken from several sources, including: El viajero immóvil by Emir Rodríguez Monegal and the Books and Writers Databse

SONNET 89 by Pablo Neruda (1904 - 1973)

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes: I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands To pass their freshness over me once more: I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep, I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together, to continue to walk on the sand we walked on.

I want what I love to continue to live, And you whom I love and sang above everything else To continue to flourish, full flowered:

So that you can reach everything my love directs you to, So that my shadow can travel along in your hair, So that everything can learn the reason for my song!

a poem which Pablo Neruda wrote for his wife.

This was read at my father's eulogy. The chaplain said that it "might express Manuel's final words to those he loved".

That chaplain had no idea that I love Pablo Neruda.

It meant so much to me. For an hour after dad died I repeatedly closed his eyes until they finally remained closed. So much in nature reminds me of my father, my love of gardening and natural history comes directly from him. Rocks, seed pods, pine cones, flowers, bark, bugs, birds, clouds...they all speak to me of his love that continues to live in me.

I did not understand "the light and the wheat" in the 2nd line and made some calls to universities' departments of Spanish literature to ask for some interpretation. After 2 sets of voice mail mazes I got through to a real person. She kindly read the original Spanish to me and consulted with another professor. She explained that Neruda often compared women to nature in his many love poems and in this one a direct translation is difficult but it seems to mean he wants the feeling of the daily love and nurturing he felt from his wife one final time. Wheat is white (light) and a part of the daily life - a staple food, like bread.

Although I have not seen this book as my copy of this sonnet came in the form of a copy of the eulogy given to me by the chaplain at my father's funeral, I have looked about a bit and find it was published in the 1950s as part of a book called "100 Love Sonnets / Cien Sonetos De Amor" by Pablo Neruda, and translated by Stephen Tapscott. has a full index of that book and about 15 sample pages. It lists "When I die, I want your hands on my eyes" as being on page 189. It may also be published elsewhere in book form; I don't know. It is certainly widely reproduced on the net.

Only a few weeks after my father's burial my dear friend Marian died suddenly due to complications from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I read this poem at her memorial service.

CST Approved

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