When the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died in 1973, he left an unpublished manuscript on his desk. Composed of 316 unanswerable questions, this manuscript became The Book of Questions
. “Where did the full moon leave its sack of flour tonight?” he asks. “Which yellow bird fills its nest with lemons?”
Rich in captivating imagery, the questions expand our interpretation of the physical world. As one book critic noted, "Neruda's questions evoke pictures that make sense on a visual level before the reader can grasp them on a literal one.”
Neruda groups the questions into 74 poems, each composed of four questions:
Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?
Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?
Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?
Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?
And what did the rubies say
standing before the juice of pomegranates?
Why doesn't Thursday talk itself
into coming after Friday?
Who shouted with glee
when the color blue was born?
Why does the earth grieve
when the violets appear?
Now it’s your turn, dear writers. Celebrate the unanswerable in your own sequence of questions “submerged in not knowing” (as the book’s translator puts it). And make sure to check out these stunning quartets from Swasti
and Grace Ow