Your Hands, Pablo Neruda – an Analysis


Something sensual this way comes. Or, you know. Some good bread…

Gut Reaction
That feeling of knowing the touch of someone before their skin has even found yours.

What does it all mean?

When your hands leap
towards mine, love,
what do they bring me in flight?

The anticipation of touch, that feeling of newness when you meet someone that you know will be an intimate part of your life.

Why did they stop
at my lips, so suddenly,

Are fingers poised, anticipating a kiss rather than a caress?

why do I know them,
as if once before,
I have touched them,
as if, before being,
they travelled
my forehead, my waist?

That feeling of expectancy, of already knowing the touch of someone before they have even touched you. The imagination, the daydreaming that leads up to that point in a new relationship. You know, the moments when you find your thoughts wandering to the feel of your (future) lover’s skin on your own.

Their smoothness came
winging through time,
over the sea and the smoke,
over the Spring,

Has the writer waited a long time for this lover? If we are to have a modern ‘spin’ on this, have they met online and are now meeting face to face for the first time? Are they separated by oceans, by city-country divides (‘…and the smoke’)? Is ‘smoke’ to be taken as meaning London as it is often referred to as this? Has this waiting period taken place over a full season?

and when you laid
your hands on my chest
I knew those wings
of the gold doves,
I knew that clay,
and that colour of grain.

When they finally met, they already knew each other; it wasn’t new, it was just going ‘home’. ‘Wings’ may refer to the delicate touch, ‘doves’ the unquestioned love, and ‘clay’ the sensual nature of moulding skin on skin. These lovers knew one another intimately before intimacy.

The years of my life
have been roadways of searching,
a climbing of stairs,
a crossing of reefs.

During the ‘waiting’, it felt like forever, and that the writer had travelled far and wide to find the one that they loved.

Trains hurled me onwards
waters recalled me,
on the surface of grapes
it seemed that I touched you.

Travelling, the daily commute – life went on and somehow became the path the writer needed to point them in the right direction. And now that they have found one another the writer can look back and ‘find’ their lover in every detail. Perhaps they had always envisioned their lover and meeting them was just the conclusion of a long, lengthy universal ‘nudge’. Or, you know. Right place, right time.

Wood, of a sudden,
made contact with you,
the almond-tree summoned
your hidden smoothness,
until both your hands
closed on my chest,
like a pair of wings
ending their flight.

Perhaps the writer had always dreamed of their lover and dreams are just that – dreams, without form, listless and in the mind. ‘Wood’ – on finding their lover they made them solid – real – and everything made sense. They knew each other and it felt like they had been searching for one another – ‘like a pair of wings ending their flight’. A happy conclusion 🙂

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
Well, we go from the writer explaining the anticipation and expectation of their lover’s caress and then the actuality of it, as though they already knew one another.

Loving, and there’s a hint of almost… surprise? That they have each had this good fortune to find each other and be such a good fit?

Suggested rhyme scheme
Free verse! Woo and hoo! Well. The translation at least, since the original is in Spanish.

Similes and metaphors
I think my favourites are: ‘clay’ – able to be moulded, malleable, as though the person touching the other’s skin is bringing them to life perhaps; ‘wood’ – dreams solidified into real life; ‘like a pair of wings ending their flight’ – as though each were delicate winged creatures who have sought each other out and found home in one another.

Author’s relationship with their subject
I think… perhaps… the author might be a little…fond of their subject?

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
Is this forbidden love? Love returning from a far off place or long time away?

Signing off
It is of course difficult to know exactly because the poem is translated and as we know, things – meanings – are often lost in translation. With poetry the selection of one word over another deliberately tells a story in a specific way and if that one word is translated even slightly differently, the entire piece can mean something other than originally intended. That, however, is the beauty of poetry anyway: it is all up for interpretation, and what it might mean to one person could be entirely different in meaning to another. That is the point. Well, sometimes.

Taken at ‘face value’, for me, it feels like a person who has been waiting for love for a long, long time, has finally found the one they love and feels that whilst they already ‘knew’ them, they still can’t believe their luck at them being such a perfect fit for one another. They knew every crease, every line, and are able to shape and mould one another. It sounds like a beautiful way to fall in love.


Original Version

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

When I read this I think of the song… The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face


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