In my youth, reading the love poems of Neruda was an intensely passionate experience. As I moved into my mid-life, love as an emotion took a different turn and I began to think ‘Love is a Verb’ and even wrote a blog on it. Still, I have always been in search of a tender love poem that makes a best fit of love’s full-fond and full-grown faces. I am blessed that at last I could find it in this poem by Vicente Aleixandre.
Vicente was one of the greatest Spanish poets of Twentieth century and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977. Vicente Aleixandre has been called an existentialist, a mystic pantheist, and a neoromantic. I have been hunting for his poetry collection “A Longing for the Light” for a long time. I could gather a copy only this year. This poem is taken from it.
There is in his poetry hardness, an unwillingness to sentimentalize over things which must be loved for themselves. A combination of surrealistic wit with sad undertones. Through a terrific artificiality (for the reader as in this poem) Aleixandre achieves an impression of great sincerity. At first his poetry shocks: his words are often “unpoetic,” his images are almost strident, his emotions are definitely outside gentility and not for any pathetic comparisons.
In “Her hand given over”, the poet holds the hand of his beloved , possibly in her old age, and her scrawny hand undergoes an alchemy by his touch, jetting out a journey inside her. This literal submersion into every nook and corner of his lover’s body, first as a voice and then as his entire being floating inside the lover’s body, creating ripples and stirring renewed passion, has an amazing flavor, fervency and fullness. There is mighty passion this verse.This is the way I wish to hold the hand of my lover, transmuting myself into a laughing melody inside her.
I rate this as the sweetest, saddest and truest love poem I have ever read.
Her Hand Given Over
One more day I touch your hand, your warm hand!
Your hand is thin and quiet–sometimes I shut
my eyes and stroke it gently, softly,
to feel its shape, to touch
Its structure, the skin with its wings and beneath that
The stony bone that can't be bribed,
the sad bone that never gets any love.
Oh sweet flesh that soaks itself in such splendid love!
The live heat spreads its voice, its gentle longing,
through your secret, hidden skin that starts to open;
And my voice slides through it into your warm blood
where it wanders, flouting in your hidden streams
like a second blood singing a shadow song, dark like honey
It kisses you within, flowing slowly like a clear tone in your body
that's an echo of my body now, my body full of strong voices.
Oh your changing body wrapped around with just the sound of my voice!
So I know when I touch your hand only the bone refuses
my love–the never luminous human bone–.
And I know there's a sad layer in you that doesn't accept me
while your flesh comes white hot for a second,
coated with flame from that lazy stroking on your hand,
your silky, porous hand that begins to moan,
your fine, quiet hand where I come in
slowly, so slowly, secretly into your life,
down to all the deepest blood vessels where I float
and live and finish my song inside of you
(Translated by Lewis Hyde)
Reference: A Longing for the Light: Selected Poems of Vicente Aleixandre . Edited by : Lewis Hyde. Publisher: Harper & Row