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."


Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for your beautiful heart-wrenching "Ode to My Table," poem–You had such a warm and inviting place to gather. I hope your new home, and new table will offer you some of these same joys and happenings to come. Happy Thanksgiving Ruth, from across many oceans, and thanks for the Neruda poem and for hosting!

Here's my link for a Recipe poem, challenged by the Poetry Sisters:

Anonymous said...

Appreciations for the gorgeous photos & this lovely ode, which catches my breath at the idea of spilling, yet wiping clean. Your essay is also heart-moving & catches me up with you & your wonderful missions. I also thank you for the gift of Mr. Neruda’s ode, new to me as most great poems are as I’m Still Learning. I’m especially struck with him seeing our World as honey & smoke. I’m thankful for you there in Uganda, wonderful Ruth.

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, this is such a heartfelt post. It reminds me of Joy Harjo's poem, 'Maybe the World Ends Here.' Your ode is beautiful. Thank goodness for photographs! I cannot imagine the change you've undergone in this past year. Bless you, for still posting, still writing through it all. And, thank you for hosting today. I'm in with a recipie for Poetry Friday.

KatApel - said...

Oh my. I was looking forward to catching up on you and your happenings, as I settle back into Poetry Friday, Ruth, and I knew you would have much to offer - but I sure didn't expect you to have moved countries, again. I can see I need to sift back through old posts and catch up properly! Your table poem is so very relatable - and perfectly piecing memories together, like the mosaic on the table itself. I am sure it will bring its new family much joy, too! But I for sure can see why you shed tears and still feel bereft.

Today I am thankful for Snail Mail... (And for you hosting Poetry Friday!

laurasalas said...

Thanks for hosting, Ruth, and happy Thanksgiving! I'll be back tomorrow to read:) I'm in w a recipe poem at

Alan j Wright said...

Hi Ruth, the odes you have shared are most engaging, both Pablo's and your own.The photos accompanying your post are suitably colourful and illuminating. You present as a global citizen and an adventurer -more power to you. Travel nourishes the writer within and it shows in your chosen words. Thank you for this special post and for hosting.
This week I an sharing a Rant Poem...

Mary Lee said...

Thanks for hosting! I'll come back and read your post later this weekend...they are boarding my flight even as I type!

I have a recipe poem for the Poetry Sisters' challenge:

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your table. I love odes. I’m in today with a book recommendation and a haiku:

Sara said...

Thank you for hosting in the midst of a move and for sharing glimpses of your life.
The whole post is just gorgeous. Your ode makes me want to write one to my own table---maybe I'll suggest this theme to our poetry group. Meanwhile, I'm in with a "recipe" poem today:

Margaret Simon said...

Ruth, Thanks for hosting. What a lovely table. I'm sorry you had to leave it behind, but I imagine another family is loving it now. Your ode captures that feeling of joy and gratitude that an ode was made for.
I have a recipe haibun about my mother's cornbread dressing:

Jone MacCulloch said...

Here is my recipe poem post:

I love Neruda! and your ode is sumptuous in details

laurasalas said...

Ruth, I don't think I've ever gotten teary-eyed over a table until now. What a beautiful elegy for your table. I think your grief is justified. I especially love "Again and again /we wiped you clean / only to spill more." I'm seeing tables as clean slates in a brand new way. xo

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Good morning (still, here), Ruth! Thank you for hosting. I've spent way longer on my unusual post today and must get on, but I will be back early tomorrow to to lay myself across your tables of goodness.

tanita✿davis said...

Thanks for hosting - and for showing us to a seat at your table. I'm sorry for the loss of such an old and solid friend. May your new place soon find you around a new table that holds court in your memory in such a warm and central way.

My recipe poem is here:

Kelly Ramsdell said...

I loved this post so much. Thank you for sharing!

I wrote A Recipe for Magic:

Shari said...

My heart felt the grief of saying goodbye to a table such as this. Thank you for your deep vulnerability in sharing what loss of something so sacred does to us. The Table truly is an object of reverence in our lives.

From your invitation of a recipe/food and the intersection of epistolary poems I've been writing this month, a very special poem emerged. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A perfect ode for this day. I recall a kids table I sat at for years and years, for ask the holidays, waiting to earn the right to graduate to the grown ups table — well into my 20s 😂 I add a short reflection at:

Tricia said...

Ruth, I adore your ode to your table. I can feel your grief in losing it. As much as I try not to hang on to "things," sometimes I still feel the loss. I love the "Under you" and "Above you" stanzas.

I'm very late in finally posting my recipe poem. It is here:

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, I am so glad to sit in silence to read your newsy post and the beautiful odes that have me pondering. Thanksgiving is always a busy holiday so I had no time to add my post but it is quiet now and I will share my thoughts soon. Thank you for being receptive to latecomers. A stanza in Neruda's ode stood out to me: Tables are trustworthy:/titanic quadrupeds,/they sustain/our hopes and our daily life. I never thought of my table in such a beautiful way but there is truth in this statement. I did not know that you moved to Uganda so I would like to add this: may your table there be filled with love, joy, and many new memories. Your ode is one filled with memories. May grow new ones this year. (I will send you my link when it is finished.)

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, I finished my post sharing a recipe poem, "Recipe for a Mindful Work-In". You can find it at Thank you for hosting.

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

I had completely missed that you moved to Uganda. I grew up in Tanzania. Karibu Afrika!

And thank you for linking to my ink poem! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

laurasalas said...

Thanks you also for posting to Tiel Aisha Ansari's poem. I loved it!

Liz Garton Scanlon said...

I'm arriving very late, but wow what a post! Thank you for sharing!
I'm in with a Recipe for a Habitat

Buffy Silverman said...

That is a gorgeous table. I'm glad you have your ode and your memories to keep it close.