Keeping Quiet, Pablo Neruda


“Keeping Quiet,” Pablo Neruda


Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.


For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.


It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.


Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.


Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.


What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.


If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.


Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.


That concludes today’s poetic interlude. Have a nice day everyone.

Check your jam

I have a confession: as of last week I hadn’t yet opened any of the jam I’ve made over the past months. I’ve tasted while cooking, but the truth is I’m not much of a jam eater. Making jam was for me just a simple starting point for learning how to can produce, but when it comes to toast I’m a butter and honey woman. I’ve given away plenty of the jam as presents, but not a whole lot of feedback yet — I assume my friends do what I often do when I receive a homemade present, which is to keep it unopened, unless perishable. We so often have such a revere for the homemade, because of the care it entails, that we guard it like a treasure or don’t use it at all for fear of ruining it …

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. (Neruda)

The exception to this was my mother, who immediately opened the jam I gave her when she and the rest of my family were over here for the wedding. She gave it two thumbs up.

So with only one feedback given, a positive one, naturally I assumed my jam was a success all around. Imagine my surprise then last Thursday evening, when Alvaro and I were having dinner and he asked “by the way, did you put alcohol in that apricot jam?”

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Love Sonnet XIII

A group of our friends gave us as a wedding present a weekend in a tree house and a bilingual French-Spanish edition of Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets. Neruda’s someone I would invite to my imaginary dinner party; bread and knitting are two recurring images in his poems so I think we would have much to talk about.

Yesterday we accompanied the last of our visitors, Alvaro’s mom, to the airport, and while waiting at the bus stop and all during the bus ride back home we read the poems in grand, booming voices, then got home, collapsed through the front door of our now empty apartment and fell asleep for five hours. These past couple of weeks have been exhausting.

Love Sonnet XIII

The light that rises from your feet to your hair,
the strength enfolding your delicate form,
are not mother of pearl, not chilly silver:
you are made of bread, a bread the fire adores.

The grain grew high in its harvest of you,
in good time the flour swelled;
as the dough rose, doubling your breasts,
my love was the coal waiting ready in the earth.

Oh, bread your forehead, your legs, your mouth,
bread I devour, born with the morning light,
my love, beacon-flag of the bakeries:

fire taught you a lesson of the blood;
you learned your holiness from flour,
from bread your language and aroma.

I’m still trying to process the wedding. It was beautiful and homemade, and so surreal to have nearly everyone I love in my life all together for the first (and surely the only) time. Never in my life have I cried so much from joy.

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Thoughts about socks

Something I read yesterday:

The survival of skills (and the skills of survival) depend on a lineage of teaching and learning which has traditionally taken place in the private sphere, in the home. … Increased specialization of skills, consumerism, and a greater division of labor have … contributed to a general loss of widely practiced everyday survival and craft skills, and a concomitant estrangement from unmediated sense experience. Under such conditions, these traditional “hand skills” are increasingly and inappropriately fetishized, and nostalgic sentiments are woven about them, which again separates them from everyday life. (Faith Wilding, “Monstrous Domesticity,” in M/E/A/N/I/N/G Nov. 1995.)

Which made me think of the Pablo Neruda poem “Ode to My Socks”:

Mara 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 if they were 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
in 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.


(me modeling my new socks, Christmas morning 2013)