Friday, November 20, 2015

Poetry Friday: Odes

It's that time of year again: at Thanksgiving, I always read Pablo Neruda odes with my eighth graders, encouraging them to think about ordinary things they are thankful for, and to write their own odes.  I'm working on mine, but in the meantime, here's the master himself.  (I won't be reading this one with my eighth graders, in case you're wondering.)

Ode to Life
Pablo Neruda
(translated into English by George D. Schade)

All night long
the pain kept hitting me
with an axe,
but sleep
like dark water washed away
the bloody stones.
Today I'm alive again.
Again
I lift you up,
life,
on my shoulders.

Oh life,
clear cup,
suddenly
you get full
of dirty water,
of lifeless wine,
of agony, losses,
appalling spiderwebs,
and many think
you'll keep forever
that color of hell.

Not true.

A lingering night passes,
just one minute passes
and everything changes.
The cup of life
fills up
with transparency.

Spacious work
awaits us.
Pigeons are born at one stroke.
Light reigns again over the earth.

Life, the poor
poets
thought you were bitter.
They didn't get out of bed like you
and face the wind of the world.

They received the blows
without seeking you,
they drilled themselves
a black hole
and became submerged
in the mourning
of a solitary pit.

It's not true, life,
you are
lovely
as the one I love
and between your breasts you
have a smell of mint.

Life,
you are
a full machine,
happiness, sounds
of storm, tenderness
of delicate oil.

Life,
you are like a vineyard:
you treasure and dole out light,
transforming it into a grape cluster.

Whoever disowns you
should wait
a minute, a night,
a long or short year,
to emerge
from his mistaken solitude,
to question and fight, to join
hands with other hands,
not to adopt or flatter
unhappiness,
but reject it, shaping
it like a wall,
like the stonecutter with the stone,
should snip out unhappiness
and make pants
out of it.
Life waits for us
all of us
who love
the savage smell
of sea and mint
nestled between its breasts.

 (Here's last year's ode post, containing a link to others I've written. )

And here's today's roundup.

6 comments:

Irene Latham said...

Oh, Ruth, thank you for sharing this poem. Life IS like a vineyard, isn't it? All viny and twiny with dirt and sunshine and storm and fruit and rot. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend! xo

Linda B said...

Wonderful that you have your students write from Neruda's odes. There are some beautiful ones that I'm sure you know that they'll love. In this one, I love the idea of 'not to adopt or flatter unhappiness.' Thanks, Ruth. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

jama said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Ruth. I love the idea of your students writing odes of gratitude.

Violet Nesdoly said...

Thank you, Ruth. This is a new poem to me. Some of the lines bring to mind our nation's foray into the territory of assisted suicide, lines like these:

"Whoever disowns you
should wait
a minute, a night,
a long or short year,
to emerge
from his mistaken solitude,
to question and fight, to join
hands with other hands,
not to adopt or flatter
unhappiness,
but reject it..."

Julie said...

I used to have two lines from this poem on a post-it note above my computer: "Spacious work / awaits us." I love the idea of spacious work. Sounds to me like you eighth-graders are lucky to have you for a teacher!

Tricia said...

haven't read your blog in eons (or at least years or months)...

my youngest son's science teacher told them to be thankful for nitrogen-fixing bacteria. seems in line with your reminder to be thankful for ordinary things!