falling objects (neruda and me)

In 1995, when my Internet service provider (Wimsey) offered 1 Megabyte of webspace I put together a simple page purely out of curiosity. I saved a random page I’d come across on the web and basically took it apart and figured out how to replace the contents with my own. From there I gradually got the hang of web pages and decided to “publish” some writings and a few pictures.

I couldn’t imagine how anyone would find my web site but I thought that at least I could send the link to friends and share some work with more than just the half-dozen friends I’d shown stuff to before. I loved the idea that people could look at my stuff, or not, without my presence or knowledge, without having to say anything in the way of insincere compliments or whatever, as would be the case with just handing someone a stack of typed pages to read.

All my life I had been collecting scraps of prose and poetry that languished in file boxes, desk drawers, and file folders. Every few years I chucked it all and began again. Almost no one ever saw any of it. I got my first computer around 1988 for the express purpose of assembling and editing these writings, a task I didn’t seem able to accomplish any other way. I was a terrible typist and rewriting was nearly impossible. I had a modem installed on that machine because I understood I could connect to the public library and look up and reserve books from home. A miracle.

For years I’d had a title in mind for a collection of writing I dreamed of publishing. “Falling Objects”. I had no idea where it came from but it lodged in my mind and stuck there. As I was assembling the second or third revision of my site I happened on a piece by Pablo Neruda that ended with that very phrase. I didn’t have much on my site, yet, so added the Neruda piece just for the hell of it.

I’m sure very few, if any, people would have searched the Web for Brian Nation. But, as it turned out, a lot of people searched, and continute to search, for Pablo Neruda. There were not so many web sites around in those days and so most of these seekers found me, thanks to my Neruda page. Over a million people have visited my site. (I have no illusions about how many of them stayed long enough to read anything, but enough have – more than would ever have even looked at my book had I published one.) Neruda made me famous and I owe him more than I can repay. I appreciate all he’s done for me.

Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the
perfumes of spring.
I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands;
how did your lips feel on mine?
Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks,
the white statues that have neither voice nor sight.
I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten
your eyes.
Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of
you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
do me irreparable harm.
Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every
window.
Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because
of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting
stars, falling objects.

Pablo Neruda

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