Sonnet XVII (100 Love Sonnets, 1960)
I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
Yes, the dense fragrance that rises from the earth is a universal experience and a primal experience of being alive. It is true that in the throes of deep emotion everything seems connected. All the beauty around us, the fragrances, the shadows and the quality of the light, and our feelings.
Sometimes the perfumes and natural scents we recall from a particular period of our lives are so intimately identified with another person. It is a lot like meeting them again to wear them or come across them in some other way.
Photo above from a beautiful blog about the influence of trade routes through Asia on world culture Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan.
More poetry by Neruda here...