Friday, November 18, 2016

Poetry Friday: Unraveling

This morning I was working on lesson plans on this day off to celebrate the Battle of Vertières, the definitive battle in which the Haitians saw off the French and won their independence.  Next week is Thanksgiving, and I've blogged before on past Poetry Fridays about how I always do odes with my eighth graders for Thanksgiving.  We read Pablo Neruda, and I encourage the kids to write their own odes about things that they love.

I'm very glad Thanksgiving is here; with all the depressing stories in the news, this is an important time to focus on the blessings of life and to thank God for them.  I've posted many of Neruda's odes on this blog, and I'll link them at the end of the post, but today I wanted a new one, so I was looking through my copy of Neruda: Selected Poems, given to me by my daughter (one of my greatest blessings). I found this one, "Ode to the Clothes."  (Here's the whole thing in a different translation from the one I have.)

I've been thinking quite a bit about clothes recently.  I lost a lot of weight in the past year, and most of my clothes are too big for me now.  I have been wearing some oversized things, belting them and feeling ridiculous with the extra fabric, and I have a few clothes that fit my new size perfectly.  I'm hesitant to get rid of the bigger stuff because I am afraid once I do, I'll start gaining weight back.  So I've been contemplating the fate of many garments in my closet, and so far, not doing much about it.

This passage in the poem (Merwin's translation) struck me:

I ask
whether one day
a bullet
from the enemy
will stain you with my blood
and then
you will die with me
or perhaps
it may not be
so dramatic
but simple,
and you will sicken gradually,
clothes,
with me, with my body
and together
we will enter
the earth.
At the thought of this
every day
I greet you
with reverence, and then
you embrace me and I forget you
because we are one
and will go on facing
the wind together, at night,
the streets or the struggle,
one body,
maybe, maybe, one day motionless.

Thinking of the fate of clothes reminded me of a video my daughter sent me earlier this week.  She watched it in her anthropology class.  It talks about what happens to some clothes (100,000 tonnes a year) thrown away in western countries.  It's called Unravel.  What actually happens to the recycled clothes is saved to the very end of the 14 minute video, but in the meantime we hear from the Indian women who do the work, and it's just fascinating to hear the conclusions they have come to about western people from going through their discarded clothes.  Watch all the way to the end: you'll be glad you did!

Have you felt that things were unraveling, this past week?  I have.  In some strange way, this poem and video gave me hope that new things may be made out of changes, whether welcome or unwelcome, and that in spite of everything, I am surrounded by blessings.

Here are some other Neruda odes I've shared in the past:

"Ode to Laziness" in 2012
"Ode to Broken Things" in 2011
"Ode to a Box of Tea" in 2014
"Ode to Life" last year
"Ode to the Onion" in 2013
"Ode to the Lizard" in 2011
"Ode to the Tomato," in 2013
"Ode to the Present" in 2010
"Ode to Scissors" in 2008

Here's today's roundup.

8 comments:

Bridget Magee said...

Your post is a blessing, Ruth. Yes, life has been unraveling, but I have hope that it will be reconstructed into something more structurally sound and have a better fit. I love Neruda's poem(poetry) and I will have to watch the video you linked this weekend. I think it might be interesting for my 13y/o to watch with me. =)

Tabatha said...

Interesting video, Ruth! Thanks for sharing it and the poem.
Did you know there was a Neruda-inspired men's fashion show in 2011?

Linda B said...

Yes, the unraveling is happening and I am watching the news about the decisions made today in Trump's appointments. However, you're right about change "shaking things up" and the good comes out. I've heard others talk of that way, although, during the change, it isn't always easy. Thanks for your poem and the video. Will watch later, Ruth. I've used odes from Neruda with my students too. At first, they are in awe, then look again and find something from them. Thanks for all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Molly Hogan said...

I love how you wove together so many strands into a thoughtful, rich post. I hope to check out your link later this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

Donna Smith said...

I, too, have lost weight over this past year. 50 pounds gone and looking for more to leave. The clothes were only an issue for a while. Mine have gone on to other people, and I am resolved that this time the change will stick.
I am grateful for the unravelings. It is going to be a bold year - I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Get rid of those old clothes! Be bold!
We can check in with each other and see if we are staying true to our new selves.

Carlie said...

Man, I had forgotten Neruda. I had a college roomate who introduced me and he kinda shocked and warmed and scandalized my sheltered North Woods self. What a beautiful man. My birthday is coming up....I might ask for the book you mentioned.

I love the compassion Neruda as for all things and the dignity, beauty and weight he gives them. I aspire.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Irene Latham said...

Oh I love this post! I hate to think about the unraveling -- must more interested in the raveling. :) You should make something from scraps of your old too-big clothes... repurpose them somehow. They are part of your story. And: the list of Neruda odes is its very own ode! Thank you, Ruth, with whom I love being simpatico. xo

Brenda Harsham said...

Odes for Thanksgiving... great idea! I might try one.