As you can tell by the livestream I've embedded above, it's time for the cherry trees on the quad at the University of Washington to start going absolutely nuts. Normally, thousands gather beneath their shade to take photographs, or to watch pink petals catch in the curls of their loved ones—or, more thrillingly, of their enemies. But this year UW is asking people to "avoid" campus to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
In lieu of making your yearly pilgrimage to one of the city's more gorgeous corridors, and to kick off a daily poem recommendation for Slog readers from me, a poet, I'm suggesting that everyone watch the cherry blossom stream while reading Pablo Neruda's most famous poem, "Every Day You Play." If you've never read the poem before, you'll soon find out why I'm suggesting it today.
A couple things to note about the poem:
• It's one of the twenty love poems in Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which you can order from Elliott Bay Books right here.
• While one line in particular tends to get a lot of well-deserved attention, I argue that "While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies / I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth" is actually the best line in the poem. The poem (in W. S. Merwin's translation) is at its best when Neruda is mixing pedestrian transitional phrases with his signature romantic sublimities. The image of slaughtered butterflies wouldn't hit as hard as it does without the passive introductory phrasing of "the sad wind goes."
• Another line I love: "I go so far as to think that you own the universe," Neruda writes. "You own the universe" would be too cheesy. But "I go so far as to think you own the universe" is like Larry David trying to compliment someone, and I fucking love it.