Leave me a place underground

There’s an innate symbolism in the act of exhuming the body of a poet. It makes patent the contrast between his literary afterlife and his bodily mortality. It speaks of the persistence, among the detritus of human history, of objects laden with meaning; objects that can be read and can shed light on the past. The act of making a poem is itself both a burial and an unearthing of meaning. 

Pablo Neruda died in September 1973, within days of the coup that brought Pinochet to power in Chile. A couple of years ago accusations surfaced that he had not died of cancer as supposed, but that he had been murdered by the regime. Last month, his body was exhumed. Initial tests show only that he had advanced prostate cancer when he died; we still don't know if he was poisoned or not. 

The poets’ words will always outlast the works of tyrants, but here, the poet himself is reclaimed in the bend toward justice of the moral universe’s arc. Justice demands this unearthing, and poetry can't help but attend it. Of Neruda's own work, what comes inevitably to mind is his poem "Leave me a place underground." I’m not sure I understand this poem, but I know it’s deeper than any mark left by the dictator, and it will live far longer.

Leave me a place underground, a labyrinth,
where I can go, when I wish to turn,
without eyes, without touch,
in the void, to dumb stone,
or the finger of shadow.

I know that you cannot, no one, no thing
can deliver up that place, or that path,
but what can I do with my pitiful passions,
if they are no use, on the surface
of everyday life,
if I cannot look to survive,
except by dying, going beyond, entering
into the state, metallic and slumbering, 
of primeval flame?