my laundry, his rhapsody

by jenniferbalboa

Walking outside earlier for some errands, and thinking of my laundry bin which seems to have a life of its own, never ceasing to pile up monstrously though I’m living alone, I remember this poem I read somewhere, with laundry in it.

Clothes were described as hanging on the clothesline and weeping. I forgot who the poet is,  but I do remember he is either Pessoa, Borges or Neruda. Hispanic for sure. And I do remember the book from where I read it – my plastic-covered The Western Canon, bought from National Bookstore Recto back in the late 1990s, when that NBS branch still did not have the bridgeway yet.

So as soon as I got back home, just a few moments ago, I went straight to the bookshelf, dug the book, and looked for the poem. It turns out the poem is called “Walking Around”, a Neruda, and that what’s in the book is just a fragment from a translation by W. S. Merwin. I cannot find anywhere in the web a beautifully laid out version of the same Merwin translation, so I will just re-type the fragment here:

For this reason Monday burns like oil
at the sight of me arriving with my jail-face,
and it howls in passing like a wounded wheel,
and walks like hot blood toward nightfall.

And it shoves me along to certain corners, to certain damp houses,
to hospitals where the bones stick out of the windows,
to certain cobblers’ ships smelling of vinegar,
to streets horrendous as crevices.

There are birds the color of sulfur, and horrible intestines
hanging from the doors of the houses which I hate,
there are forgotten sets of teeth in a coffee-pot,
there are mirrors
which should have wept with shame and horror,
there are umbrellas all over the place, and poisons, and navels.

I stride along with calm, with eyes, with shoes,
with fury, with forgetfulness,
I pass, I cross offices and stores full of orthopedic appliances,
and courtyards hung with clothes hanging from a wire:
underpants, towels and shirts which weep
slow dirty tears.

And that’s all, how walking around led me to Walking Around.

And there truly is always a poem in everything, or when it’s not that manifest, at least everything leads to a poem. Just look at the laundry.