Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT October 5th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Our text was the poem “Ode to a Pair of Scissors” by Pablo Neruda, posted below.

Fourteen participants gathered in the clearing this evening, arrived from around the globe (like the well-traveled scissors in Neruda’s ode) representing Bar Harbor, central Pennsylvania, Detroit, India, Manhattan, Montreal, Philadelphia, Pittsford, Sao Paulo, and Staten Island.

Two people read aloud this ode, an extended metaphor that fell down the page. One of the first comments made, after hearing the escapades and serious functions of scissors, was that it will be impossible to ever again look at a pair of scissors in the same way—which is often to take them for granted. Yes, “them”–two blades united in an instrument that cuts.

Neruda left a litany of objects: fabric such as bridal gowns, diapers, suits, and shrouds; fingernails, flags, flesh, hair, knots, and umbilical cords, abstractions: happiness and sadness cut by scissors that look like  birds or fish or schooners or shining armor. as they cut “the fabric of our lives” from cradle to grave.  

In drawing our attention, which someone described as a “close up” of a common thing

To several participants the most puzzling: scissors that fold and fit safely in a pocket. One participant said that she had a pair of folding scissors. One of us remembers “bandage scissors” with one angled/blunt edge that we, as student nurses, kept in a uniform pocket years ago. Safe to tuck into a pocket and safe to introduce under a patient’s bandage and cut off.

Anotherpuzzle: how was the scent of the poem’s speaker’s seamstress aunt left on the metal scissors? What was the scent of that woman?

The poem took one person to her mother’s sewing basket, to the pinking shears (that have given way in this day and age to “fast fashion”—whatever that is some of us wondered—and to all the items her mother sewed, including skating costumes.

Another person told of his mother and father meeting because his mother and his father’s sisters having been seamstresses during the war. He, too, knew pinking shears.

As we discussed the double-ness of “a pair of scissors” a person, who spoke Portuguese noted that the equivalent “tesoura” is a singular noun as it is in Spanish (la tijeras), the language in which Neruda wrote.

Neruda concludes having decided to “cut short” his ode with “the scissors of good sense.

Our prompt was: “Write an ode to something common.”

The humor that we heard, just below the surface, in Neruda’s writing seemed to prompt playfulness in participants’ writing odes to toothbrushes, scavenged pens, the sun, and the flame of a candle.   

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, October 7th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

"Ode to a Pair of Scissors" by Pablo Neruda

Prodigious scissors
(looking like birds, or fish),
you are as polished as a knight’s
shining armor.
Two long and treacherous
crossed and bound together
for all time,
tiny rivers
thus was born a creature for cutting,
a fish that swims among billowing linens,
a bird that flies
that smell of
my seamstress
when their vacant
metal eye
spied on
cramped childhood,
to the neighbors
about our thefts of plums and kisses.
in the house,
nestled in their corner,
the scissors crossed
our lives,
and oh so
many lengths of
that they cut and kept on cutting:
for newlyweds and the dead,
for newborns and hospital wards.
They cut
and kept on cutting,
also the peasant’s
as tough
as a plant that clings to rock,
and flags
stained and scorched
by blood and flame,
and vine
stalks in winter,
and the cord
on the telephone.
A long-lost pair of scissors
cut your mother’s
from your navel
and handed you for all time
your separate existence.
Another pair, not necessarily
will one day cut
the suit you wear to your grave.
have gone
they’ve explored
the world
snipping off pieces of
and sadness
Everything has been material
for scissors to shape:
the tailor’s
as lovely as schooners,
and very small ones
for trimming nails
in the shape
of the waning moon,
and the surgeon’s
submarine scissors
that cut the complications
and the knot that should not have grown inside you. 
Now, I’ll cut this ode short
with the scissors
of good sense,
so that it won’t be too long or too short,
so that it
fit in your pocket
smoothed and folded
a pair
of scissors.
Pablo Neruda
Ode to Common Things 
New York: Bullfinch Press: 1994
Translator Ken Krabbenhoft