Friday, 14 February 2014

An Ode to 2 Odes, in Prose

This is not about Who I love. This is about What I love. 

And I tell you – I love words, the spoken ones too, but here I speak about the written words. How used how not. The pictures they create in my mind, and the chains of thought. The craft of putting one before the other, or something amiss with the whole structure, making me frown. Thinking, could this have been better? And then re-writing the sentence, anew. Leaning back to read those words strung together again. A smile on my face reflective of a satisfied mind, or the pencil scratching my head – this doesn’t look right! 

Words. The games they play, and the games we play with them.

And when you say ‘Ode’ on a day that stands for love, I think of 2 written long back. No, not by me, dear me! But by two poets who mastered their words – in ivory towers or sitting under trees. Even in the busiest of streets. Scribbled or typed, but always streams of thought, put in a language such that not a word I would dare change. Here’s them odes that I often go back to, and if you ask me why, I myself know not. Perhaps because these two odes rest unblemished by popularity. Also because while conventionally an Ode is supposed to be emotional and introspective, these here charm by being exactly the opposite.  

A few waltzing words, and the thoughts they conjure in my mind. Oh, I love! 

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat
Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes


Now, Gray was a mid-18th century poet, and unlike most others, he had inherited sufficient to not write for Grub Street. He read for amusement and wrote for the same reason too. No wonder then that humour ran in his veins and out his pen too. No wonder again that when he was asked to write an epitaph for his friend’s cat who drowned in a fish bowl, this is what he wrote. Here are a few lines (with many skipped in between): 

‘Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
She saw; and purred applause.

Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream:

She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?

Presumptuous maid!
Again she stretched, again she bent.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled.)
She tumbled headlong in.

She mewed to every watery God
No cruel Tom nor Susan heard.
A favourite has no friend.

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know one small step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
Not all that glisters gold.

Notice the controlled humour in this mock-epic - a composition using grand images to describe the most mundane. Also realize how the ode, an otherwise emotional piece, is actually devoid of any feelings for a dead animal. And this was supposed to be an epitaph! Look how it’s laden with moral and sexual undertones. If you can, keep aside the unflattering references to womenkind in the guise of the Narcissistic proud, gold (fish) greedy and over-reaching kitty, and see how the cat and woman blend. This masterfully written and endearing ode never fails to make me smile at my own kind. 'What female heart can gold despise?’ and yes he means to say a rich man no woman can ignore, today or back then in the London of yore. Keep those claws in, dear cats, and let us forgive him. Partly because it's a day for love, and partly because he's right! As for Fate? Are not we just playthings in the hands of our ‘Watery Gods’? Now that’s a thought to calm the mind! 

Ode to the Tomato


You know Neruda – Neftali Ricardo Reyes, the much quoted Latin American poet. Of course you know! Now, his odes were known for their mastery of imagery and the skill of raising mundane objects to sublime heights. Simple language, simple technique, but deliciously cooked. Yes, this Ode is like a salad in the making. Single word lines make us read and read further as if we’re adding ingredients to the bowl. Step by step. While he is alluding to American culture behind all the red of the tomatoes, read this and tell me if it’s not enjoyable without that dimension too. Just pure pictures of culinary delight with an eye for detail and ahem, violence in the kitchen too. (Some lines skipped)

The street drowns in tomatoes:
in two
and the streets
run with juice.
the tomato
cuts loose,
takes over lunches,
too bad we most
a knife
into its living pulp,
beds cheerfully
with the blonde onion
and to celebrate
lets itself fall
over the gaping hemispheres,
we have the day’s
parsley flaunts
its little flags.
its time!
lets go!
and upon the table
show off
their convolutions,
and plenitudes
and the abundance
without husk,
or scale or thorn,
grant us
the festival
of ardent colour
and all-embracing freshness.

Our commonplace buy from the vegetable guy is celebrated in Latin America. It connotes beauty and fun and forms a meal for everybody. Yes, no elitism! A life without pretences and an ordinary that is celebration-worthy. So Neruda, including how he inscribes his geographical identity and nationality in an ode written for tomatoes! Did you feel the build-up of momentum? Like a painting being created. And the after-effect? A feeling of festivity and celebration. A poem I look at as romantic, because it makes us look at the most ordinary with such wonderment. Isn't it? 

A few waltzing words, and the thoughts they conjure in my mind. Oh, I love! 

Happy Valentine’s.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was: Cupid’s Arrow - It’s Valentine’s Day, so write an ode to someone or something you love. Bonus points for poetry!]


  1. A very different kind of Sakshi Nanda comes to light. Maybe the truest one of all the forms we've been privy too. And it doesn't disappoint. It's very true that me, being a layman, had to read this almost three times to be able to absorb everything . But absorb I did, like a sponge. Especially loved the ode to the humble tomato, probably my favourite fruit that masquerades as a vegetable. Tangy at times, sweet at times and really colourful. Nicely done Saks

    1. All my 'forms' are true. Believe me. :)
      Well, thank you for spending time on these. They are both very different from the usual kind of poetry. Glad you made the effort. There is always scope to learn something new, and absorb. Love what you say for the tomato. :)

  2. What a great post for this day! Loved reading every bit of it.

    1. Thank you, Beloo. Happy you enjoyed what it contained. Not the popular mood but certainly something I love. :)

  3. What a beautiful tango and waltz with words. Amazing that words can transform mundane to exotic. This was Sakshi's purist pen at its best. Happy valentines day.

    1. I have always wanted to transform the mundane to exotic, to show people the extraordinary in the ordinary that surrounds them. Either to make them laugh, or to nod their heads in agreement. How celebratory the Everyday will become then. These two above always come to mind when I sit and dream of achieving what they can.
      Happy Valentine's day to you too, Alka. Lots of love.

  4. waltzing words indeed :-)
    loved reading it.

  5. What a brilliant combo of words...Gray, Neruda and you!

    1. Janu, thank you, for placing me next to them. Soaring real high now. Lots of love this Valentine's. :)

  6. Poetry,
    words one atop another in ways I frown,
    yet, when explained by friend thus I like,
    when they claim no thought profound.

    Nice one, to point Cupid to not who but what you love instead.

    1. No thought profound is claimed true,
      yet, surface if you scratch,
      philosophy they do hold,
      That your heart may gladly match. :)
      You made me a poetaster with your comment, Rickie. Well, we both tried.
      Glad you liked where the arrow went! :D

  7. Wow Sakshi! I love these proses..specially Neruda!
    And now this truly justifies you being my inspiration! <3

    1. Oh come on, Shivangi. Your yesterday's post evidences that you don't me, or anyone! :)
      Thank you for reading this. :)

  8. this is really a really good one. loved it.. :) thank you for providing us with these odes , varna i wouldn't have discovered how amazing can be the light side of poetry.
    and for you , you are not made up of bones , blood or flesh or the five elements as we call it .. you are made up of words , tiny stories . that is why i feel so very connected with you.. connected through words ,which are spoken without affectation or pretense. Happy Valentine's to you and little gentleman of yours :)

    one more thing read "i do not love you as " by Pablo Neruda ..its so simply beautiful..

    1. Anshu, in your admiration for me I can never find match. You beat them all hands down. Thank you. :)
      And if you think again, aren't we ALL made up of words? Or lets say - words make us?
      I am happy for that 'connection'.
      Off to check out 'I do not Love you as' now. :)

  9. Its beautiful, Sakshi! A different you, in this post! :) Have a lovely Valentine's Day! :)

  10. Wow! how simple things can sound so exclusive. Loved the way you have written it. Happy Valentine's day :)

  11. Such exotic verses........Loved the prose especially Neruda!!

  12. What wonderful odes! I especially loved the sardonic Gray! Poor cat, though.

    1. Poor cat, yes. But then. what an epitaph! Such special treatment I wouldn't mind for myself even! :)
      Thank you for reading, Dipali.

  13. Ah Neruda! I wish I had more than one pair of eyes when I read him... and an extra heart to beat to his words.

    You create magic- and you make it look so easy.

    Happy Valentine's sunshine. :)

    1. Dagny, I love you. I look forward to your comments like a polythene bag lying on the road looks forward to the wind. To soar, ever so lightly but oh so freely! :)
      Hope you have a great V-Day too! :)

  14. THanks for introducing Neruda
    I so so loved it. True it created a live image in my mind !!
    I love poetry and I loved this post


    hv a grt time

  15. I think a lot of them have already told you that it's a different you. But a different you doesn't mean that it's not great. Loved it :)

    1. Thank you, Sugandha. Good to see you here! :)

  16. I will not say, I am impressed, Sakshi Nanda. But, it's a new genre that you scribbled and it's simply mesmerizing. I come here to improve my writing coz I enjoy stuffs you churn but I wonder whether I'll be able to hone my craft with the kind of novel things you write. Thank you, teacher.
    Btw, the poems are simply mesmerizing and hope u had a lovely V Day:)

    1. Arrey arrey, Vishal. I am really no bench mark to view your own skill against. Come here only for entertainment.
      Yes, my V-day was good. Hope yours was too. :)


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