Guest Observation

Ode to Laziness

(From “Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda,” translated and edited by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday I felt that my ode wouldn’t

get up off the ground.

It was time, it should

at least

show a green leaf.

I scratched the earth: “Get up,

sister ode”

–I said to her–

“I promised to produce you,

don’t be scared of me,

I’m not going to step on you,

ode with four leaves,

ode for four hands,

you’ll have tea with me.

Get up,

I will crown you among the odes,

we’ll go out to the sea shore

on our bicycles.”

Nothing doing.

Then,

high up in the pines,

laziness

appeared naked,

she led me off dazzled

and sleepy,

she showed me on the sand

little broken pieces

of material from the ocean,

wood, seaweed, stones, feathers of seabirds.

I looked for yellow agates

but didn’t find any.

The sea

filled all spaces,

crumbling towers,

invading

the coasts of my country,

pushing forward

successive catastrophes of foam.

Alone on the sand

a ray opened

a ring of fire.

I saw the silvered petrels

cruise and like black crosses

the cormorants

nailed to the rocks.

I set free

a bee writhing in a spiderweb,

I put a little stone

in my pocket,

it was smooth, very smooth

like a bird’s breast,

meanwhile on the coast,

all afternoon,

sun and fog wrestled.

Sometimes

the fog was pregnant

with light

like a topaz,

at other times a moist

ray of sun fell,

and yellow drops fell after it.

At night,

thinking about the duties of my

fugitive ode,

I took off my shoes

by the fire,

sand spilled from them

and right away I was falling

asleep.

–Pablo Neruda

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