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.
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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 knives crossed and bound together for all time, two tiny rivers joined: thus was born a creature for cutting, a fish that swims among billowing linens, a bird that flies through barbershops. Scissors that smell of my seamstress aunt’s hands when their vacant metal eye spied on our cramped childhood, tattling to the neighbors about our thefts of plums and kisses. There, in the house, nestled in their corner, the scissors crossed our lives, and oh so many lengths of fabric 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 hair as tough as a plant that clings to rock, and flags soon stained and scorched by blood and flame, and vine stalks in winter, and the cord of voices on the telephone. A long-lost pair of scissors cut your mother’s thread from your navel and handed you for all time your separate existence. Another pair, not necessarily somber, will one day cut the suit you wear to your grave. Scissors have gone everywhere, they’ve explored the world snipping off pieces of happiness and sadness indifferently. Everything has been material for scissors to shape: the tailor’s giant scissors, as lovely as schooners, and very small ones for trimming nails in the shape of the waning moon, and the surgeon’s slender 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 will fit in your pocket smoothed and folded like a pair of scissors. Pablo Neruda Ode to Common Things New York: Bullfinch Press: 1994 Translator Ken Krabbenhoft