Friday, December 17, 2010

Poetry Friday: The Present

I finished all my school work yesterday, so today I am home with a very different kind of to-do list. It wasn't easy yesterday, writing lesson plans for the first week of January, thinking about that upcoming anniversary of the earthquake and remembering last year, when I looked forward to the new year of 2010 with so much hope. I shed many tears as I wrote those lesson plans, and I am imagining that teaching them will be challenging as well.

Today I am thinking about the present, and what a gift each day is. Including this day, the first day of my Christmas vacation. This is the oldest of ideas, carpe diem. I always tried to seize each day, but the earthquake burned into my brain that we never know what day is our last. Life is a beautiful gift, and a gift to be enjoyed now because we don't know when it will be gone.

So of course, in that mood, the poet to be reading is Pablo Neruda. (By the way, I just recently saw The Motorcycle Diaries and one of my favorite things about the movie was the way the characters kept quoting Neruda.) Today I am thinking about Christmas Present, and about the joy that each day brings along with its difficulties.

I have the George Schade translation of Neruda's odes (sadly I can't read them in Spanish), and online I found a different translation (not sure whose). So I'll post part of the translation I have and then link you to the other one. I like the Schade translation better but I'm not equipped to say which is more accurate.

Ode to the Present

Pablo Neruda

as a board,
this hour,
this day,
like a new glass,
- there's no
of the past -
we touch
the present
with our fingers,
we cut
its measure,
its sprouting,
it's alive
with nothing
of irremediable yesterday,
of lost past,
it's our
at this
moment, bearing
sand, eating
from our hands,
seize it,
don't let it slip,
get lost in dreams
or words,
grab it,
hold it down,
until it obeys you,
make a road of it,
a bell,
a machine,
kiss, book,
cut its delightful
woodlike fragrance,
and make of it
a chair,
its back,
try it out,
or else
a ladder!

Here's the whole thing in a different translation.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Poem Farm, and Amy has a wonderful original poem today, so go read it posthaste, as well as the others linked there. That's one of the things on my to-do list for today.

Seize the day!


Amy L V said...

Ruth, What a healing poem. I hope that this time of light, of new hope will bring a bit of heart-peace to you and yours. None of us ever knows what is next, but most of us never experience such a world-shaking event as Haiti has had. Might there be something that all of us Poetry Friday people could do for your students...some gift of words? Please let me know. A.

Sherry said...


Could you possibly email me an address. I don't want to invade your privacy, but I do have something I want to send to you that I think you would like.


Janet said...

Pablo Neruda's poems are so sensory -- so full of textures. I love this one.

Tabatha said...

Merry Christmas, Ruth! Sending you a cyber hug. Sometimes staying right there in the moment is a person's best defense. Thank you for sharing this poem. I hadn't seen it before, and seeing alternate translations was very interesting.

Carlie said...

Oh lovely! I discovered Neruda when my roomate in college, a refugee from Albania would sit in her bunk and read his poems aloud to me.

This is also great motivation to remember that I am part way through Motorcycle Diaries and loving it and that I NEED TO FINISH!