Pablo Neruda, Stalingrad Poem

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Prison Blues, Blues Music

by Willie Suarez, Argentina

I don't like the blues. Personally, it doesn't appeal to me...

In the years of the dictators in Argentina, I was a political prisoner. The jail where I was held was worse than a jail - it was a concentration camp for people fighting the dicatorial regimes of Pinochet, Bordaberri and Videla.

In my prison, I met prisoners from Uruguay and Chile as well as "El Chenchi", a young Chileano that loved the blues... he put blues music to the protest poem of Neruda called "Stalingrado" in Spanish. Here is the stanza...

Save me a fragment of violent foam
Save me a rifle, save a plow for me
And let them place it at my grave
With a red ear of grain from your soil,
That it be known, if there be any doubt,
That I died loving you and you loved me,
And if I did not fight in your waist
I leave in your honor this dark grenade,
This song of love for Stalingrad.

Gua'rdame un trozo de violenta espuma,
Gua'rdame un rifle, gua'rdame un arado,
Y que lo pongan en mi sepultura
Con una espiga roja de tu estado,
Para que sepan, si hay alguna duda,
Que he muerto ama'ndote y que me has amado,
Y si no he combatido en tu cintura
Deja en tu honor esta granada oscura,
Este canto de amor a Stalingrado.

In the few times the guards allowed us to gather on the "Patio of the Prisoners", El Chenchi managed to teach us the words and melody of to this blues song from the window of his cell. He taught us to sing the song in three part hamony. We would sing the song whenever we marched to the patio - it became our hymn of protest. Then one day the guards made us stop singing and as a punishment, suspended our recreation.

To this day, I don't enjoy listening to blues music... except for one song - the poem of Neruda sung to the music of "El Chenchi" - that's the one blues song I love.

From the final stanza of Pablo Neruda's "New Song to Stalingrad" (Nuevo Canto de Amor a Stalingrad)

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