Oda a la Mesa (Ode to the Table) by Pablo Neruda

by Gabrielle Loisel

I work out my odes
on a four-legged table
laying before me bread and wine
and roast meat
(that black boat
of our dreams)
Sometimes I set out scissors, cups and nails,
hammers and carnations.

Tables are trustworthy:
titanic quadrupeds
they sustain
our hopes and our daily life.

The rich man’s table,
scrolled and shining
a fabulous ship
bearing bunches of fruit.
Gluttony’s table is a wonder
piled high with Gothic lobsters
and there is also a lonesome
table in our aunt’s dining room,
in summer. They’ve closed
the curtains,
and a single ray of summer light
strikes like a sword
upon this table sitting in the dark
and greets the plums’ transparent peace.
And there is a faraway table, a humble table,
where they’re weaving
a wreath
a dead miner.
That table gives off the chilling odor
of a man’s wasted pain.
There’s a table
in a shadowy room nearby
that love sets ablaze with its flames.
A woman’s glove was left behind there,
trembling like a husk of fire.

The world is a table
engulfed in honey and smoke
smothered by apples and blood.
The table is already set,
and we know the truth
as soon as we are called:
whether we’re called to war or to dinner
we will have to choose sides,
have to know
how we’ll dress
to sit
at the long table,
whether we’ll wear the pants of hate
or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.
It’s time to decide,
they’re calling:
boys and girls,
let’s eat!