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Singing Salt

I spent the day at the Brooklyn Book Festival at Borough Hall wandering in and out of readings and seeing friends.  With little time to cook, I thought it would be right to end the day with Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.  In his Elementary Odes, he writes to wine, tomatoes, maize, large tuna, chestnuts, artichokes, lemons.  Here the salt sings back.

Ode to Salt

This salt
in the saltcellar
I once saw in the salt mines.
I know
you won’t
believe me,
but
it sings,
salt sings, the skin
of the salt mines
sings
with a mouth smothered
by the earth.
I shivered in those solitudes
when I heard
the voice of
the salt
in the desert.
Near Antofagasta
the nitrous
pampa
resounds:
a broken
voice,
a mournful
song.

In its caves
the salt moans, mountain
of buried light,
translucent cathedral,
crystal of the sea, oblivion
of the waves.

And then on every table
in the world,
salt,
we see your piquant
powder
sprinkling
vital light
upon
our food. Preserver
of the ancient
holds of ships,
discoverer
on
the high seas,
earliest
sailor
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night:
taste imparts to every seasoned
dish your ocean essence;
the smallest,
miniature
wave from the saltcellar
reveals to us
more than domestic whiteness;
in it, we taste infinitude.

-Pablo Neruda, Elementary Odes, 1954

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