Isla Negra by Lorraine Caputo

chile mandy pirch

Isla Negra
by Lorraine Caputo

On the pale jade horizon
            clouds shield a retreating sun
Nebulous rose brushes the still-
            blue heaven above
In this dying light shimmers
            a mother-of-pearl sea

She swells sea-green
            heaving         leaping
                        over boulders
Thin fingers of water reach between
            leaving their prints of
                        golden foam

Then the water swiftly
            streams through fissures
In those left-behind pools
            zebra-striped shells anchor
                        to the wave-worn granite

Early Morning
Upon a many-fractured boulder
            the eternal lovers embrace*
                        their eyes upon the retreating sea
The chilled wind rustles
            Matilde’s spirit hair

They watch me
            a lone figure in this
                        reborn light
My slow steps print
            the sand washed smooth
                        by the night’s high tide

I search among the pebblets
            placing shells in a matchbox
I flee from the waves
            that wet my not-
                        quick-enough feet

In a tidal pool
            a deep-red anemone sleeps
& higher upon the tumbled rocks
            limpets, shells & barnacles still cling
Salt lakes lefts in basins
            begin to crust in this
                        strengthening summer sun

The midnight-blue sea
            rises into translucent green waves
Far up on this golden beach
            they wash       leaving behind
                        a paler print of foam

The day ages
            greying with clouds gathering
                        over the ocean
This frothing tide grows
Spray leaps higher
Watery fingers reach deeper
            between boulders
Curtains of seaweed resilient
            in the crush of surf

& once more these salten waters
            caress the zebra-striped shells
                        anchored to worn granite

Previously published in Blue Fifth Review (Spring Quarterly, May 2017).

PHOTO: Portion of Pablo Neruda’s house, Casa de Isla Negra, with view of the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Mandy Pirch.


chile map

NOTE: Isla Negra is a coastal area in central Chile, about 70 miles west of Santiago. Isla Negra is best known as the residence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who lived there at Casa de Isla Negra (with long periods of travel and exile) from 1939 until his death in 1973. The area was named by Neruda, after the dark outcrop of rocks just offshore. Isla Negra means “black island” in Spanish. The Casa de Isla Negra is now a museum. Every year on Neruda’s birthday, July 12th, there are celebrations, both at the house and in the artisans’ square nearby, with poetry readings, music, and picnics on the beach.

MAP: Location of Chile within South America. Isla Negra is located in the central part of the country, about 70 miles west of the capital city of Santiago.

PHOTO: Shoreline with rocks at Isla Negra, Chile. Photo by Gabo.

neruda and mathilde isla negra

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  In the poem, “the eternal lovers” refers to Neruda and his wife Matilde; Pablo Neruda was a lover of the sea, and his favorite house was here, at Isla Negra, Chile. Both are buried on the grounds of their once-home. Despite its name, Isla Negra is not an island, but rather a small coastal village west-northwest of Santiago de Chile.

PHOTO: Pablo Neruda and wife Matilde Urritia on the rocky shore at Isla Negra.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her work appears in over 180 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, as well as in 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also pens travel pieces, with stories appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and Far-Flung and Foreign (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012), and travel articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia, and journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. You may follow her Latin America Wander travels on Facebook and at latinamericawander.wordpresscom.

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