A World of Common Things

Pets. Untensils. Fruit. Clothes. These are the things that we touch and see and hear and taste and smell every day. Pablo Neruda wrote a whole book of odes to them: spoons, an onion, the cat, and a pair of socks. He celebrates how much they have added to his life, and how he loves them for that.

I love this collection of poems because it is clear how much he sees common things as life-enhancing objects of wonder. Not because they can make him happy in more than a fleeting sense, but because they offer a chance to express gratitude for life in a tangible way – deep, inner joy brought into words through a cat, an orange, French fries. Here’s the end of the first poem – Ode to Things:

O irrevocable


of things:

no one can say

that I loved



or the plants of the jungle and the field,

that I loved


those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.

It’s not true:

many things conspired

to tell me the whole story.

Not only did they touch me,

or my hand touched them:

they were

so close

that they were a part

of my being,

they were so alive with me

that they lived half my life

and will die half my death.

Pablo Neruda (Ken Krabbenhoft, translation), Odes to Common Things, Ode to Things; New York: Bullfinch Press, 2010, p.17

2 thoughts on “A World of Common Things

  1. David Anderson

    Always good to be given a Neruda poem one hasn’t ever read before. I love how this poem is all about including EVERYTHING.


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