National Poetry Month – Ode To My Socks by Pablo Neruda

A visit to our local library today, led me to do something which I hadn’t done before. Read a poem with the kids!

Don’t get me wrong here, poems I have read with them, but those have been the ones you read to toddlers.

So, it started like this. In the kids section, both my boys got to pick poems from a basket. Turns out, without knowing, both picked poems related to animals, dog and a cat. The coincidence doesn’t end there, they picked poems by the same author, Marilyn Singer.

Both the poems were in free verse , just apt for my boys. One talks about a dog in April, the other about a cat in December. Turns out today was one such day here. Though it was an April day, it snowed and was cold enough to be passed on as an early December day! Sigh… life in Midwest.

When we got home, I decided to read to my boys to one Pablo Neruda’s works.

At some point in his life, Neruda made it a point to write an ode every week and he managed to come up with more than 250 odes. The genius of this man, that he made humble, ordinary objects into something extraordinary. Like in Ode to Tomatoes, he compares a tomato to the majestic Sun, whereas as in Ode to the Artichoke  he sees artichoke as a warrior with a tender heart.

In Ode to My Socks, which we read, he compares Socks that were gifted to him, to Rabbits. And upon wearing them his feet transform to Fish!

Ode To My Socks

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
two
cases
knitted
with threads of
twilight
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
socks.
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that woven
fire,
of those glowing
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
keep
fireflies,
as learned men
collect
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
cage
and each day give them
birdseed
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
socks
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.

(Poem source: www.poets.org)

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