Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Poetry Friday: Ode to Neruda's Table and Mine, and the Roundup is Here!

When I signed up to host Poetry Friday back in June, I wasn't even sure what country I'd be living in by November. But I knew that Thanksgiving would be a time when I'd be thinking about odes, and that's why I chose this date. As it turns out, the school where I work now in Uganda doesn't have a Thanksgiving break, since a very small percentage of our constituency is from the United States. And more unexpected, I'm now not even teaching English, so I won't be writing odes with kids this year. I'm back to my original subject, the one I got degrees in: French. 

It's still a great time to host Poetry Friday. I'm pretty sure I was the first person to host Poetry Friday from Haiti, and then the first from Paraguay, and now the first from Uganda.



Welcome to the roundup, friends! Leave your link in the comments, and I'll round them up the old-fashioned way. My time zone is eight hours ahead of Eastern time, so it's going to be well into Saturday for me before this Poetry Friday is over. Bring it on!



When we left Haiti last December, we had to get rid of many things. Some we sold, some we gave away, some we lost on the way in various fashions. I'm still grieving over a lot of that stuff, even while my grieving is mixed with guilt, since my losses pale to nothing in comparison with the losses of so many in Haiti during these terrible times. One thing I had to leave behind was my outdoor table. The spot where it used to sit looked so bare and forsaken when it was gone. And I remembered so many happy moments at that table. I'm illustrating this post with way too many photos of it. I was never taking a picture of the table itself, but of the meals and flowers and people that it welcomed. We never ate Thanksgiving dinner there, but we ate Christmas dinner there many times, and breakfast, lunch, and/or supper on ordinary days, and I hosted friends for tea on countless occasions. 



Pablo Neruda wrote an Ode to the Table, so I wrote one too. You'll find them both below. 

Ode to the Table

Pablo Neruda

I work out my odes

on a four-legged table,

laying before me bread and wine

and roast meat

(that black boat

of our dreams). 

Sometimes I set out scissors, cups and nails,

hammers and carnations.


Tables are trustworthy:

titanic quadrupeds, 

they sustain

our hopes and our daily life.


The rich man's table,

scrolled and shining


a fabulous ship

bearing bunches of fruit.

Gluttony's table is a wonder,

piled high with Gothic lobsters,

and there is also a lonesome

table in our aunt's dining room,

in summer. They've closed

the curtains,

and a single ray of summer light

strikes like a sword

upon this table sitting in the dark 

and greets the plum's transparent peace.

And there is a faraway table, a humble table,

where they're weaving

a wreath


a dead miner.

That table gives off the chilling odor

of a man's wasted pain.

There's a table

in a shadowy room nearby

that love sets ablaze with its flames.

A woman's glove was left behind there,

trembling like a husk on fire.


The world 

is a table

engulfed in honey and smoke,

smothered by apples and blood.

The table is already set,

and we know the truth

as soon as we are called:

whether we're called to war or to dinner

we will have to choose sides,

have to know

how we'll dress

to sit

at the long table,

whether we'll wear the pants of hate

or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.

It's time to decide,

they're calling:

boys and girls,

let's eat!

(Sadly, I haven't been able to find out the translator's name. If someone knows, please tell me so I can post it. I don't have my Neruda books with me here, so I'm relying on online sources.)

Ode to My Table

Tables are trustworthy: titanic quadrupeds, they sustain our hopes and our daily life. - Neruda

Trustworthy table,
you sustained us.

You stood on your titanic legs
in our Haitian courtyard
and sustained our daily life.

You held up
my teapot
and my piles of quizzes
and sometimes my feet.

You supported
vases of flowers
and Christmas dinner
and weekend breakfasts.

You witnessed
and tears
and laughter.

You kept silent about
and frustrations
and confided joys.

Again and again
we wiped you clean
only to spill more.

Around you
our children grew.

Around you
we argued
and reconciled
and discussed
and were silent.

We talked of
and disease,
love and hate,
friends and enemies.

We talked of
and haircuts,
jokes and dreams.

We sat around you
when we were afraid to sit inside
because an earthquake had leveled so many houses
in our city.

We sat around you
with visitors,
carefully distanced
when we feared germs.

Under you
puppies tumbled
and babies crawled
and ants devoured crumbs.

Above you
birds flew by,
some observed through binoculars,
others not even noticed.

You saw
countless bowls of noodles and rice
croissants and patés and soupe joumou
scrambled eggs and cookies
and thousands of cups of tea.

You saw family,
you saw friends,
some as trustworthy as you.

The day the truck came to pick you up
to take you to your new owner
I cried.

How can I ever replace you?
No table in our new home
will ever be you,

Trustworthy table.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Read on for everyone's links!


Check out Michelle Kogan's recipe poem, "Thanksgiving Recipe with a Twist." What do we do when unexpected challenges interrupt Thanksgiving?


Linda's got a recipe too today;  hers is for a perfect Poetry Friday roundup! I especially liked the intriguing suggestion: "You can go rogue." 


It's Friday morning here in Uganda, and some posts came in during the night! I'm going to work soon, but I'll keep checking all day and adding links as I'm able. Be patient; they'll all be up eventually!

Kat, who wrote a snail book herself called What Snail Knows, is in with a review of Irene Latham's new snail book, Snail's Ark. Thanks for the lovely snail mail, Kat and Irene! And Kat even finishes up with a bonus jellyfish!

Laura's written a recipe poem, too, a recipe for a song! A bird poem is totally the way to my heart, and this one's a beaut. 


Alan shares a fascinating post about long poems, and then a rant poem about our times. He gives an alternative name to the genre that I really like: a "What Cheeses Me Off Poem."

Mary Lee has a recipe poem too; hers is for a soap box derby. What a wonderful collection of ingredients!

Marcie's in with a book recommendation (sounds really good!) and a haiku.


Sara's recipe poem details a way to make dinner even when all your ways don't work.

Margaret remembers her mom's cornbread dressing -- and knows that it was really love. She's used the haibun form, which I enjoy so much!

When Jone hosted Poetry Friday a few weeks ago, I couldn't get to her post, and the same thing is happening to me this week. I will keep trying, but meanwhile, go check out her link, since whatever my issue in Uganda is, it will most probably not affect you!

It's nighttime here now, and we just had a power cut. Now that the power is back on, I'm catching up on the last few links to come in. Sorry to keep you waiting!

Heidi has written a "Catalog of Unabashed Change" all about how we do and ought to and must live now. Great stuff, Heidi!

Tanita's recipe poem is about a winter concert. Such a treat, and such a job to prepare!

Kelly's recipe poem is about magic. My favorite line after the end of the power cut is: "Light a candle. Right a wrong."

And Shari has combined an epistolary poem with a recipe poem to make a delicious coffee cake!

I'm going to bed now, friends, and I'll be back in a few hours to post anything that comes in overnight. Thank you for all the yumminess so far!

It's morning in Uganda, and my husband is baking bread for our Thanksgiving gathering this afternoon. We worked Thursday and Friday, so we waited until today for festivities. Our oven only goes up to 350 degrees, so he's using a neighbor's. This morning he went through the yearly ritual of hunting down his mother's recipe. I'm going to try to get next week's lesson planning finished while he bakes. But first, here are the links from the night!

Patricia posted an evocative poem about the "tiny things" that are bringing her gratitude this year.

Tricia got some terrible news, and she posted a recipe for healing. Wishing you comfort and hope and yes, healing, Tricia.

Tiel Aisha Ansari doesn't participate in Poetry Friday, but I love her work and I like to link to it when I'm hosting. Here's her beautiful poem, "Black Ink, Blue Breath."

Here's Irene's Q poem for this week! "How easily we break." Indeed.

Any more links? It's not Friday any more, but don't let that stop you. Thank you, everyone, for participating, and helping make my first Thanksgiving in Uganda a poetic occasion. I am grateful for you, Poetry Friday friends! 

It's Sunday morning, and overnight I got one more link, this one from Carol. It's another recipe poem; this one is a recipe for "a mindful work-in." I'm sure we could all use some relaxation after this busy weekend! 

And Liz has extended the festivities to Poetry Monday, with her lovely and hopeful recipe poem "The Making of a Habitat."

Monday, November 14, 2022

Reading Update

Book #59 of the year was a re-read, In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden. You can see what I wrote the last time I read it here.

Book #60 was The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature, by Jonathan Rosen. This book is full of many things of which I cannot get enough: birds, poetry, philosophy, theology, ecology, history. Some good quotes follow. "The library world and the wild, nonverbal world meet in the middle when you are birdwatching." "Knowing the giant numbers of geography, and knowing the names of things, and having a system for putting what we know in its proper place, takes the chill edge off the presence of unfathomable things, which is perhaps a fancy way of saying death." "Backyard birds are in fact birds of paradise. It just depends on your definition of backyard - and paradise." I will definitely read this one again.

Book #61 was The Dearly Beloved, by Cara Wall. I absolutely loved this book, the story of two married couples and their friendships. These characters are so real and beautifully drawn, and their lives are complex and difficult, but also hopeful and lovely. 

Book #62 was the long-awaited Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, by Susan Cain. First I waited for a long time for it to be published, and then I waited a long time to get it from the library. This all can't have been very long, though, because the book only came out in April. I liked it very much, and found it thought-provoking just like her previous best-seller, Quiet, which I wrote about here.


Book #63 was Five Wives, by Joan Thomas. This is a retelling of the (to me) extremely well-known story about the five missionaries martyred in 1959 in Ecuador. I resisted reading this because I had a feeling it would be a cynical take on the events, but ultimately I couldn't overcome the temptation to read it. I have such mixed feelings about it. It was beautifully written and if these weren't real people I would have found it entirely successful as a novel. But knowing so much about the facts, and knowing that these people's families are still living, I really wished I knew more about why the author had interpreted things the way she did. Did she have access to source material I haven't seen? (I've read many of the books published on this.) Or was she just using her imagination? And if so, is that really OK? I've read historical fiction my whole life, so I don't have a problem with people re-imagining real events, but this author made up fictional grandchildren for these real people, and that seemed to be going too far. I'm sure the story is more complicated than the hagiography the evangelical world has produced - it's bound to be. But this made me quite uncomfortable in ways I can't fully articulate. Someone else read it so we can talk about it!

Book #64 was Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan. I read this because it's on the French A-level syllabus and I'm going to teach it. I found it quite overwrought but still entertaining. Sagan published it in 1954 when she was nineteen.


Book #65 was Un Secret, by Philippe Grimbert. I read this one, like #64, in order to teach it. This is a harrowing story, but I couldn't put it down. It's been fun to read novels in French again, since mostly what I've read in French in recent years has been news articles - all bad news, naturally. 

Book #66 was The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai. This is the story of a group of friends in 1985 and 2015. It's about friendship, love, art, and illness, specifically the AIDS epidemic in its early years. It's set in the gay community of 1980s Chicago and the art world of 2015 Paris. 

Book #67 was Gentlemen and Players, by Joanne Harris. This is a mystery set in an exclusive school, with lots of twists and turns. 

Book #68 was The Ink Black Heart, by Robert Galbraith. This is the latest installment of the story of Cormoran Strike and his business partner and friend Robin Ellacott. This is enormously long but I zipped through it. As with the others in the series, I like the way the author describes the day to day work of a private detective agency. The main story is extremely dramatic, but we also see the mundane tasks that go on, and as always I am most interested in the character development. Trigger warnings galore for violence, language, content.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Poetry Friday: Birdtober is Over

Hello, friends! I'm popping in to link you to my Birdtober poems. I was pretty proud of myself that I managed to post all thirty-one days of October. Maybe sometime I'll make it back to my former level of Poetry Friday participation when I used to go around and read everyone's contributions! Baby steps.

Happy November and here's all my Birdtober content!


Heidi's hosting the roundup today!