Posts Tagged ‘ode poems’

Pink Shoe, pen and ink and marker paint on graph paper,
doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


It’s not the first pink shoe I’ve loved.

The first would be a pair I bought for $3 at a garage sale. Nineteen-forties, pointy toe, with a bow. Still in the original shoe box.

“Love” is too strong of a word. That’s what I’ve been ruminating on now for days. It’s embarrassing to admit to love a thing when people are sick, the war rages, buying power drops, gas prices rise, the Pope blesses, spring blows in.

Isn’t this what’s wrong with the world? We love our things too much.

Last night my daughter was searching in her chest of drawers for a shirt and pair of pants to wear to Spirit Day today at school. She was to dress all in white. I half anticipated that she’d come to me in a panic — I don’t have white pants!! — insisting we run to Target to get some.

I rehearsed in my head the talk I’d deliver. You want to spend money on a pair of white pants that you can wear one day while people are dying, families don’t have enough food…and on and on. 

She appeared a few minutes later with a white tee and a pair of brown pants from last summer. Turns out she has more depth than I gave her credit for. I’m the one wedded to my things.

I bought this pair of shoes two years ago in a San Francisco boutique, the kind of store where it’s not unusual for the salespeople to talk to eachother, as if you’re not there, during the entire course of a fitting. The shoes were regularly $200, on sale half-off. They were tight, but I knew the leather would stretch eventually.

I don’t buy shoes lightly. The last pair I bought is a European brand, normally expensive, that I found at TJ Maxx for less than $30. That was an exception. My spine doesn’t love poorly-shod feet.

Shoes aren’t the only objects I admire. I love lamps. I own more tables than anyone I know — I just gave away two. Furniture is like art to me. I have an enamel chair that sits unused against a wall. It reminds me of easel and painting rolled into one.

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, with his “Ode to things,” gave me permission to embrace my own love of things. As I read of “shapely shoes” and “the softness of a woman’s hip,” I knew my appreciation for things was different from greed or desire. It is love for beauty.

Inspired by Neruda, I wrote my own ode.

ode to a pink shoe

graceful as a ballerina
big toe caress
supple cowhide
made in italy
narrow long
aristocratic limbs

it holds me
moves me
carries me
across asphalt ocean
and gravel dreams
stained by travel
to carnival skies

a flamenco
cotton candy chamois
toe nail polish
fine foot fetish
fine latin lover
cha-cha-cha possibility

swim with me
in lucid night
say it slow
know not
what i mean
walk slowly now

dream soft scent
and roses
long stride
stretch limosine
mary kay superstar
pink shoe cadillac

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Oda a las cosas
by Pablo Neruda

Amo las cosas loca,
Me gustan las tenazas,
las tijeras,
adoro las tazas,
las argollas,
las soperas,
sin hablar, por supuesto,
del sombrero.
Amo todas las cosas,
no sólo
las supremas,
el dedal,
las espuelas,
los platos,
los floreros.

Ay, alma mía,
es el planeta,
de pipas
por la mano
en el humo,
de llaves,
de saleros,
en fin,
lo que se hizo
por la mano del hombre, toda cosa:
las curvas del zapato,
el tejido,
el nuevo nacimiento
del oro
sin la sangre,
los anteojos,
los clavos,
las escobas,
los relojes, las brújulas,
las monedas, la suave
suavidad de las sillas.

Ay cuántas
ha construido
el hombre:
de lana,
de madera,
de cristal,
de cordeles,
navíos, escaleras.

todas las cosas,
no porque sean
o fragantes,
sino porque
no sé,
este océano es el tuyo,
es el mío:
los botones,
las ruedas,
los pequeños
los abanicos en
cuyos plumajes
desvaneció el amor
sus azahares,
las copas, los cuchillos,
las tijeras,
todo tiene
en el mango, en el contorno,
la huella
de unos dedos,
de una remota mano
en lo más olvidado del olvido.

Yo voy por casas,
tocando cosas,
divisando objetos
que en secreto ambiciono:
uno porque repica,
otro porque
es tan suave
como la suavidad de una cadera,
otro por su color de gua profunda.
otro por su espesor de terciopelo.

Oh río
de las cosas,
no se dirá
que sólo
lo que salta, sube, sobrevive, suspira.
No es verdad:
muchas cosas
me lo dijeron todo.
No sólo me tocaron
o las tocó mi mano,
sino que acompañaron
de tal modo
mi existencia
que conmigo existieron
y fueron para mí tan existentes
que vivieron conmigo media vida
y morirán conmigo media muerte.

Ode to things
by Pablo Neruda

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls —
not to speak, of course,
of hats.
I love all things,
not just the grandest,
also the infinite-
small —
and flower vases.

Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!
It’s full of
through tobacco smoke,
and keys
and salt shakers —
I mean,
that is made
by the hand of man, every little thing:
shapely shoes,
and fabric,
and each new
bloodless birth
of gold,
carpenter’s nails,
clocks, compasses,
coins, and the so-soft
softness of chairs.

Mankind has
oh so many
Built them of wool
and of wood,
of glass and
of rope:
ships, and stairways.

I love
not because they are
or sweet-smelling
but because,
I don’t know,
this ocean is yours,
and mine:
these buttons
and wheels
and little
fans upon
whose feathers
love has scattered
its blossoms,
glasses, knives and
scissors —
all bear
the trace
of someone’s fingers
on their handle or surface,
the trace of a distant hand
in the depths of forgetfulness.

I pause in houses,
streets and
touching things,
identifying objects
that I secretly covet:
this one because it rings,
that one because
it’s as soft
as the softness of a woman’s hip,
that one there for its deep-sea color,
and that one for its velvet feel.

O irrevocable
of things:
no one can say
that I loved
or the plants of the jungle and the field,
that I loved
those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It’s not true:
many things conspired
to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
or my hand touched them:
they were
so close
that they were a part
of my being,
they were so alive with me
that they lived half my life
and will die half my death.


Pablo Neruda wrote three books of odes during his lifetime. “Oda a las cosas” appeared in the book Odas Elementales in 1954. Neruda wrote and published a vast number of poems, which spoke of love, existentialism, and political travesty. His odes — poems of praise to laziness, a tuna, things — celebrated the day-to-day — the simple ordinariness of life itself.


Abstract Charcoal Series and Color Links, details of charcoal on paper and details of link necklace, drawings and photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

-Related to posts Got Poetry (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), Getting To Know Pablo Neruda, and Neruda – Solo La Muerte.

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Announcement of Neruda readingI got a call on Friday asking if I would be one of seven bilingual speakers to present dramatic readings of Pablo Neruda poetry and views of his political life. “Si, como no,” I said (although afterwards I worried that “dramatic readings” were a second cousin to slam, which, as I’ve noted before, I don’t do).

The readings will take place in mid-June. I’ll receive the poems and scripts soon and can begin working on them and meeting with the director of the production as well as the other readers. Tengo un poco miedo now that I’ve signed up to do this. Too bad I can’t read them in Spanglish.

I have to admit, I’m not particularly smart when it comes to Neruda. My first truly serious boyfriend, someone I lived with for five years and considered marrying, gave me a collection of poems by Neruda. I don’t recall Neruda’s poems as much as I remember the significance of a man giving me Neruda poems. It was the first time I was in love. Everything was a sign.

I remember the two of us, me and my boyfriend, sitting on the edge of Albuquerque’s west mesa desert where it overlooked a canyon. There were old cars at the bottom that looked like they’d been pushed over the edge. Washing machines and refrigerators, too. The kind of place where someone could dispose of a body and get away with it. The clouds were forming into figures; we were stoned. “There goes a moose,” I said, “can you see the antlers?” “Yes,” he cried. He saw everything I saw, and I honestly thought that was what people meant when they talked about true love. 

Then the clouds turned dark and before you knew it we were caught in one of those New Mexico thunderstorms that scares you to death, where you think you’re going to get hit by lightning because there’s nothing out there taller than you. And in that way your mind can play tricks when you’re stoned, I believed the clouds were angry imps telling me this relationship was doomed. One minute perfect, the next doomed.

The relationship ended, not because of that episode or anything in particular except for the fact I was completely afloat during that time in my life. I was always looking for what things meant. That he gave me a collection of poems foretold a sort of soulmate union, which thunderheads later told me to end. I never revisited Neruda after the relationship ended. I took off to Spain to find myself and for over a decade ran into a sort of fallow period as far as it came to poetry.

This weekend I looked up Neruda on the web. The first poem I came across was the one below. Maybe I’m still stuck on signs but it sure seemed to portend something important. A kind of message about life. How books are everything yet nothing. There’s only so much you can get out of a book, it seemed to say. You have to live to write.

What do you think? What does this poem say to you? What can you tell me about Neruda that might help me prepare for my dramatic reading of his words?

Ode to the Book
translated by Nathaniel Tarn

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbours.
Copper ignots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean’s surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio–
I got a telegram
from the “Mine” Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won’t let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won’t go clothed
in volumes,
I don’t come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems–
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I’m on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I’m going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

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