Friday, November 25, 2011

Poetry Friday: Ode to Broken Things

I always do odes with my eighth graders during Thanksgiving week. I think odes go wonderfully with Thanksgiving, when we are so aware of the huge list of our blessings. We read some examples from Neruda and from students, and I encourage them to write their own. Some people always do. I told you about this last year.

This year as we were reading some Neruda, I noticed this one, "Ode to Broken Things." I've been feeling a bit like a broken thing myself lately. I'm all repaired and glued together, but I'm aware of the fixed places, and I don't think I'm the same as I was before.

This translation is done by George Schade, and is from the book Fifty Odes. Here's Jodey Bateman's translation. I don't read Spanish, so I can't comment on which is more accurate. I like both of them.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all the broken things in my life and for the way God makes them into something new, something not the same as before, but still beautiful.



Ode to Broken Things

Pablo Neruda, tr. George Schade

Things are being broken
in the house
as if pushed by an invisible
voluntary breaker:
it's not my hands
or yours
or the girls
with tough nails
and earthshaking footsteps:
it was nothing, nobody,
it wasn't the wind,
or the tawny noon,
or the terrestrial night,
it wasn't nose or elbow,
the swelling hip,
ankle
or gust of air:
the plate broke, the lamp fell,
all the flower vases crumbled
one after another, one
in full October
brimming over with scarlet,
worn out by all the violets,
and another empty one
rolled, rolled, rolled
through the winter
until it became
just flower vase gruel,
a broken memory, luminous dust.

And that clock
whose sound
was
the voice of our lives,
the secret
thread
of our weeks,
which one by one
tied up so many hours
to honey, to silence,
to so many births and travails,
that clock fell too
and its delicate blue
viscera vibrated among
the broken glass,
its long heart
uncoiled.

Life grinds away
glass, wearing out clothes,
tearing to shreds,
crushing
forms,
and what lasts in time is like
an island or ship at sea,
perishable,
surrounded by fragile dangers,
by implacable waters and threats.

Let's put everything once and for all, clocks,
plates, glass carved by the cold,
in a sack and take our treasures out to sea:
let our possessions crumble
in a single alarming breaking place,
let what is broken
sound like a river
and let the sea reconstruct
with its long toiling tides
so many useless things
that nobody breaks
but which got broken.


Here's some more Neruda I've posted in the past: "Ode to the Lizard," "Ode to the Present," a bit from "Ode to Scissors," "Goodbyes," and a bit of "To the Dead Poor Man." I love Neruda.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here, at My Juicy Little Universe.

4 comments:

Linda at teacherdance said...

I have written odes at the new year with my students; it is such a thoughtful exercise for the older ones. I never thought to do it at Thanksgiving-beautiful idea! Neruda is THE model as you shared, to think of things that one does not break, but are broken? The poem needs more than one look. Thank you.

KKSorrell said...

Love Neruda!! I really enjoyed this poem.

Diane Mayr said...

that clock fell too
and its delicate blue
viscera vibrated among
the broken glass,
its long heart
uncoiled.


This is great, for many reasons. Thanks for sharing it.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

"let the sea reconstruct
with its long toiling tides
so many useless things
that nobody breaks
but which got broken."

I like broken things - I feel it adds character compared to that which is pristine, pure, and unsullied - it is through the cracks and crevices that one pulls out crystals of beauty and fragments of truth.

I've always been in love with Neruda but this is the first time I've read this particular poem. Thank you so much for sharing this.