Neruda Ode to Clothes & the environment

Ode to the Clothes

Every morning you wait,
clothes, over a chair,
to fill yourself with
my vanity, my love,
my hope, my body.
Barely
risen from sleep,
I relinquish the water,
enter your sleeves,
my legs look for
the hollows of your legs,
and so embraced
by your indefatigable faithfulness
I rise, to tread the grass,
enter poetry,
consider through the windows,
the things,
the men, the women,
the deeds and the fights
go on forming me,
go on making me face things
working my hands,
opening my eyes,
using my mouth,
and so,
clothes,
I too go forming you,
extending your elbows,
snapping your threads,
and so your life expands
in the image of my life.
In the wind
you billow and snap
as if you were my soul,
at bad times
you cling
to my bones,
vacant, for the night,
darkness, sleep
populate with their phantoms
your wings and mine.
I wonder
if one day
a bullet
from the enemy
will leave you stained with my blood
and then
you will die with me
or one day
not quite
so dramatic
but simple,
you will fall ill,
clothes,
with me,
grow old
with me, with my body
and joined
we will enter
the earth.
Because of this
each day
I greet you
with reverence and then
you embrace me and I forget you,
because we are one
and we will go on
facing the wind, in the night,
the streets or the fight,
a single body,
one day, one day, some day, still.

– Pablo Neruda

Poems that take the mundanity and animate it, supply magic to our every day. Pablo Neruda could do this; he had that particular talent. When I read about clothes as he writes about them in his poem above, I think about a time when clothing was made better, when items were sewn to last. Objects and tools used to have more value over the longer term. I long for those days, when we had such great care for our possessions, not in a purely material sense, but in such a way where there was longevity in the relationship–which to me, is a little bit different from attachment.

To me, this appreciation for these material items in our lives goes along with my background and appreciation for animism, how I consider that all of life is considered ‘alive.’ The official definition for animism is, “the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.” To me, however, the power is more magical, and need not be supernatural. Again recently I was reminiscing of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, the rabbit who was ‘made real’ by love.

To me, animism as a philosophy is more harmonious and congruent with nature. It is in sync with material durability, in communion with time. In our expendable economies today, we have a “use once and throw away” culture. While I enjoyed seeing all the Halloween decorations this year (more than usual), I couldn’t help but think of the world’s trash problem, and how desperately we need to change our ways in society and in our economies. As an anthropologist, I would say that cultural change is necessitated first. I get excited when we learn about new bacterias or enzymes that can break-down plastic and resolve the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but we are still far from having the intellectual wealth and intelligence of our planet focused on solving these problems. Many people don’t know, for example, that it rains plastic.

My post is an appeal and a wish to “put the mental and emotional energy” for the planet on solving these problems. We need to have solutions for protecting our Earth, and we need to support our scientists. Yes, each person can make a difference by using re-usable items, and reducing their foot-print; however, I think we have to highlight using our voices, and sharing our hearts so that more people are inspired about what can be done.

Thank you for listening!

Happy Peppering!

6 thoughts on “Neruda Ode to Clothes & the environment

  1. What a splendid poem and agree with your post – I hope we find the precious quality of things that we use and own with a purpose and not burden our planet wit what we hoard in our attempts at escape or whatever else makes us lose touch with what is really needed.

  2. Thank you, Pragalbha. I sincerely hope we can construct a way out of these consumer trash problems, and I know that I don’t have the answers. I think it’s a combination of changes on a cultural level and manufacturing more reusable types of material as well as cleaning up the trash that’s already not biodegrading or breaking down while freeing up our ecosystems from contamination. Also the economy would most likely need to be shifting its focus and have a new dynamic. To me, it’s a whole picture of planetary health and you as you suggest, we’d be served well by getting to the root of the problems (hoarding) that cause us to be so wasteful, littering, and escapists.

  3. Pingback: nano poblano finale & change challenge, astrology – Fiesta Estrellas

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