Ode to Common Things

on Poems of Pablo Neruda

for SSATBB Chorus, Soprano, Mezzo, Tenor and Orchestra:    3 perc. 2 pno, harp, guitar, strings

How your music makes me feel: Bright and clean and colorful and natural and open and spacious and green and floral and gargantuan and light and wild and complex and simple and ordered and free and sense-fed and peaceful and cool and warm and tierra y belleza y amor and many other common and uncommon things
— Allyn Van Dusen, Mezzo-soprano soloist

I have a crazy love of things: crazy.

Ilike pliers, scissors; I adore cups, rings, bowls, to say nothing, of course, of hats.

I love all things, not only the grandest, but the infinitely small things:

thimbles, plates, spurs, flower vases.

Ah yes, my soul, the planet is beautiful,

full of tobacco pipes leading hands through their own smoke,

full of keys, salt shakers, ultimately, all that has been made by human hands...

... Suddenly, lightning strikes with two eyes of pure forget-me-not,

with nose of ivory or apple,

pointing you the way to soft sheets

like bright banners of white lily where we slip into embrace.

Then into our bed comes death with rusted hands

and iodine tongue, 

and she raises her finger, long as a road, pointing us to the shore,

the doorway of our final pain.


...O delicious solitude that comes with the night,

solitude like the bread of earth,

solitude like a river of guitars!

The world is gathered into a single drop of honey:  a single star.

Amongst the leaves all is blue and all the trembling heavens sing.


And the woman who plays the earth and the guitar

bears in her voice the sorrow and the joy of the deepest hour,

Time and distance look out over the guitar:

we are a dream, an interrupted song.

The untamed heart takes to the roads on horseback.


It dreams and dreams of the night and its silence,

it sings and sings of the earth and its guitar.

Prodigious scissors 

(appearing like birds, like fish)

burnished as if you were a knight’s armor.

[women only]

From two long and treacherous knives

crossed and married for all time, from two tiny rivers meeting to make love,

comes a creature that cuts,

a fish that swims in tempestuous linens, a bird that flies through barbershops.

Together we will fight for you with all those who hunger.

In the rivers and the air we will search you out.

We will divide the whole earth so that you might germinate,

and the earth will go forward with us:

water, fire, humankind joining in the struggle.


We shall be crowned with sprigs of wheat,

winning earth and bread for all,

and then even life shall have the shape of bread.

It will be simple and profound, limitless and pure.

Every being shall have its rightful share of soil and life

and our daily bread will be bread for all,

sacred, consecrated by the largest and longest of human struggles.


This terrestrial victory has on her shoulders not wings, but bread.

She soars valiantly, setting the world free,

like a bread-maker carried by the wind.