Who Knows What is Going On

by Juan Ramon Jimenez

English version by Robert Bly
Original Language Spanish

     Who knows what is going on on the other side of each hour?

     How many times the sunrise was
there, behind a mountain!

     How many times the brilliant cloud piling up far off
was already a golden body full of thunder!

     This rose was poison.

     That sword gave life.

     I was thinking of a flowery meadow
at the end of a road,
and found myself in the slough.

     I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
and found myself in the divine.

-- from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Who knows what is going on on the other side of each hour?

Isn't that just a wonderful opening line? It's one of those profound, enigmatic statements that can trip you up full stop, making the rest of the poem an afterthought.

But what is the poet saying? I think he's encouraging us to not bring our assumptions to each experience in life. We have to encounter each experience, each hour, as it is, not as we expect it to be. This is why he turns our expectations on their head with lines like:

This rose was poison.

That sword gave life.


Every single thing holds its secret and is pregnant with surprise...

How many times the brilliant cloud piling up far off
was already a golden body full of thunder!


To approach life without the false certainty of what each experience holds requires a supreme humility. It requires us to cherish the unexpected possibilities of each encounter more deeply than our own accumulating history. It requires a silence of mind, a sense of wonder, and a restoration of our inherent innocence. But, when we truly learn to live this way, magic happens! We open ourselves and, in turn, the common things we encounter open themselves to us, revealing hidden worlds within...

I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
and found myself in the divine.



Recommended Books: Juan Ramon Jimenez

The Winged Energy of Delight News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Invisible Reality Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography
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