Poem of the Month: Ode to My Socks, Pablo Neruda

Valentine’s Day was a holiday in my household. It was my parents’ anniversary. They married on February 14 out of necessity more than sentiment–World War II was in full throttle and my father was being dispatched overseas. Still, my sisters and I loved the romance of it, and our parents showered us with small gifts (a hair barrette, then a Nancy Drew book, still later a pair of nylon hose) just as we bestowed them with Woolworth’s finest (a fruit bowl, a flower vase, a tablecloth).

Pablo Neruda is well-loved for many reasons, and one of them is his Ode to Common Things –a dictionary, a fish in the market, a chair, his socks. His odes always remind me of our breakfast Valentine’s celebrations, the sweet exchanges of small gifts, ordinary things, elevated by love.

Ode to My Socks

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
two
cases
knitted
with threads of
twilight
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
socks.
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that woven
fire,
of those glowing
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
keep
fireflies,
as learned men
collect
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
cage
and each day give them
birdseed
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
socks
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.

–Pablo Neruda

(c) 1993 Pablo Neruda, trans. Robert Bly

Journal prompts:

  • Write an ode (“a lyric poem usually marked by exhaltation”) to an everyday object.
  • Write an ode to a loved one.
  • Write a humorous ode to someone you dislike.
  • Write an ode to yourself.
  • Play with line length for effect.

2 Responses to Poem of the Month: Ode to My Socks, Pablo Neruda

  1. Sister Suze February 10, 2018 at 7:07 am #

    Ode to my Garbage Disposal.

    I love you.
    Your convenience. Your quickness to get rid of everything yucky.
    I missed you in Bern. I missed you at my sister’s house.
    And when you jam I hate you for not being there.
    You are my fresh start.

    • Kay Adams February 10, 2018 at 11:05 am #

      Brava! A humble and elegant ode.

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