Standard Oil Co by Pablo Neruda

The discussion of peak oil and the worldwide struggle against oil companies fracking and exploitation brings us back to this poem by Pablo Neruda’s. Food for thought…

Standard Oil Co.

When the drill bored down
toward the stony fissures
and plunged its implacable intestine
into the subterranean estates,
and dead years, eyes
of the ages, imprisoned
plants’ roots
and scaly systems
became strata of water,
fire shot up through the tubes
transformed into cold liquid,
in the customs house of the heights,
issuing from its world of sinister depth,
it encountered a pale engineer
and a title deed.
However entangled the petroleum’s
arteries may be, however the layers
may change their silent site
and move their sovereignty
amid the earth’s bowels,
when the fountain gushes
its paraffin foliage,

Standard Oil arrived beforehand
with its checks and its guns,
with its governments and its prisoners.

Their obese emperors
from New York are suave
smiling assassins
who buy silk, nylon, cigars,
petty tyrants and dictators.
They buy countries, people, seas,
police, county councils,
distant regions where
the poor hoard their corn
like misers their gold:
Standard Oil awakens them,
clothes them in uniforms, designates
which brother is the enemy.
The Paraguayan fights its war,
And the Bolivian wastes away
in the jungle with its machine gun.

A President assassinated
for a drop of petroleum,
a million-acre
mortgage, a swift
execution on a morning
mortal with light, petrified,
a new prison camp for
subversives, in Patagonia,
a betrayal, scattered shots
beneath a petroliferous moon,
a subtle change of ministers
in the capital, a whisper
like an oil tide,
and zap, you’ll see

Now Standard Oil’s letters
shine above the clouds,
above the seas, in your home,
illuminating their dominions.

                               ——Pablo Neruda

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