Written by Ray Gordezky
Along with the devastation and suffering in Haiti, this past week saw the passing of Canadian poet C. K. Page. Page received a variety of tributes and accolades over her long career, including having her poem Planet Earth selected by the United Nations for its 2000 Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry reading series. The poem takes its inspiration from the Pablo Neruda poem In Praise of Ironing.
For me, the imagery and music in Page’s poem is an appropriate homage for Haiti and its citizens and for C. K. Page whose love of the earth began decades ago. The video below is of Page reading Planet Earth for the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize. The entire poem is included below the video.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hand keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces
- In Praise of Ironing, Pablo Neruda
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.
The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness.
and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an O! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving,
It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessing and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.
– P. K. Page, 1994