by Pablo Neruda
Only the most ancient love on earth
will wash and comb the statue of the children,
straighten the feet and knees.
The water rises, the soap slithers,
and the pure body comes up to breathe
the air of flowers and motherhood.
Oh, the sharp watchfulness,
the sweet deception,
the lukewarm struggle!
Now the hair is a tangled
pelt crisscrossed by charcoal,
by sawdust and oil,
soot, wiring, crabs,
until love, in its patience,
sets up buckets and sponges,
combs and towels,
and, out of scrubbing and combing, amber,
primal scrupulousness, jasmines,
has emerged the child, newer still,
running from the mother's arms
to clamber again on its cyclone,
go looking for mud, oil, urine and ink,
hurt itself, roll about on the stones.
Thus, newly washed, the child springs into life,
for later, it will have time for nothing more
than keeping clean, but with the life lacking.