“I Remember You As You Were”

A Poem by Pablo Neruda from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

I Remember You As You Were

I remember you as you were in the last autumn.
You were the grey beret and the still heart.
In your eyes the flames of the twilight fought on.
And the leaves fell in the water of your soul.

Clasping my arms like a climbing plant
the leaves garnered your voice, that was slow and at peace.
Bonfire of awe in which my thirst was burning.
Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul.

I feel your eyes traveling, and the autumn is far off:
Grey beret, voice of a bird, heart like a house
Towards which my deep longings migrated
And my kisses fell, happy as embers.

Sky from a ship. Field from the hills:
Your memory is made of light, of smoke, of a still pond!
Beyond your eyes, farther on, the evenings were blazing.
Dry autumn leaves revolved in your soul.

Original photo by Almarilla via Wikimedia Commons, 19 May 2019 ‘”Las peinetas” (the combs) are one of the most beautiful mountains in Southern Chile. Located near to the city of Pucón, and next to the border with Argentina.” Quote added by Lois Warner, 7 July 2021

Response to “I Remember You As You Were”

Note: Read and think about this poem yourself before reading my response! Each person is different, and what you take should be different!

When I read this poem, the poignancy of love resonates in my mind because of the imagery of fall. Autumn is beautiful, but its beauty comes from the end of something that is already dead. The beauty comes from decay, and you know that in reality, what we see in a way is already a memory.

Of course, soon after autumn comes winter, and then even the vestiges of life are gone. Instead of dead leaves, having their last hurrah with a burst of color, all we have are bare trees and the grays of winter. There may be smoke, but by then it is just another shade of gray that blends with the dead foliage, murky skies, and frozen ground.

The speaker in this poem feels the solidity of the beloved…”heart like a house”…but he (or she) knows the beloved’s presence is ethereal, even then. “Dry autumn leaves revolve in your soul.”: Despite the stillness of the surface, beneath the gray beret, much is stirring, and it won’t be there for long.