“Ode to My Socks”

It was eighteen below zero in Saranac Lake when I took the dog out on Tuesday morning. I hear that we are headed back into the deepfreeze for the weekend. What better time could there be to savor the beauty and goodness of wool socks?

Poem for a Thursday — “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda

“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.”

in Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) had a long career in foreign service with posts as Consul in Burma, Argentina, Spain, and Mexico. He was elected to the senate in 1943 but was later forced out of office and into hiding for his communist views. When Chile’s government swung back to the center seven years later, Neruda again found favor. Neruda was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1950 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

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