To Becoming Silent

by Pablo Neruda

(translation by David Breeden)

Now, let’s all count to twelve,
then keep still.

For once on this earth,
let’s speak in no language.
For once let’s stop
and not move our arms so much.

That would be a fragrant moment,
without hurry,
without movement;
we would all be together
in an instantaneous . . . disquiet.

The fisherman in the cold sea
would not hurt the whales,
and the worker in the salt
would look at his broken hands.

Those who prepare garish wars–
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors–
would don clean clothes
and walk around
with their brothers
in the shadows

doing nothing.

Don’t confuse what I want
with true inaction:
life is only what you do–

I don’t want anything to do
with death.

If we can’t be unanimous
as we move our lives so much,
maybe do nothing for once,

so that maybe a great silence could
interrupt this sadness–
this never ever understanding each other,
and threatening each other with death–

maybe then the earth
can teach us

when everything seems dead,

everything was seen as alive.

I’m counting to twelve,
and you, become

I’m leaving now.

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About David Breeden

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden is Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He became a minister after a career as a university professor, teaching creative writing and literature. He has written several books on theological topics and translates the writings of philosophers of classical antiquity. More information is available at