Pablo Neruda must have written a thousand gorgeous and soul-shaking poems on everything from socks to multinational corporations, but in my (limited) experience, this is his most amazing work. He threads together a wide scope of metaphors-- corn, gloves, roses, lightning, streams, autobuses--as he searches through life for meaning and truth. Sounds like a worn-out, pretentious topic? Think again...Neruda doesn't indulge in philosophical navel-gazing, but delves into the most earthy, mundane, yet painful details of life in his quest. He encounters not a simple answer but the revelation of past tragedy, and a role for himself in bringing about the truth of justice. The poem's beauty may not hit like lightning at first--it must be absorbed bit by bit.
Although I must have read Poem 10 (Antigua America, novia sumergida) fifty times, it always sends chills down my spine and sends me thousands of feet high into the Andes. The Heights of Macchu Picchu has comforted me when I felt lonely, helped me write my college essays, and helped me see my future plans as worthwhile instead of idealistic mush. Anyone concerned with the history of Latin America, social justice, nature, or the works of Neruda should read this poem.