NPR logo

A Reading of 'Ode to Salt'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5038243/5038244" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Reading of 'Ode to Salt'

Books

A Reading of 'Ode to Salt'

A Reading of 'Ode to Salt'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5038243/5038244" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Poet Philip Levine reads from his translation of Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Salt."

Mr. PHILIP LEVINE (Poet): When I lived alone by myself I used to--and I was an industrial worker. I used to live basically on potatoes, butter and salt and onions. And truthfully, I felt nourished by them.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Pulitzer Prize-wining poet, Philip Levine.

Mr. LEVINE: I am about to read from his great book, "Elemental Odes," Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Salt," which I translated from the Spanish.

"Ode to Salt." (Reading) In the salt mines I saw the salt in this shaker. I know you won't believe me. But there it sings. The salt sings. The skin of the salt mines sings with a mouth choking on dirt. Alone, when I heard the voice of salt, I trembled in the empty desert near Antafagusta. The whole salted plain shouts out in its cracked voice a pitiful song. Then in its caverns, jewels of rock salt, a mountain of light buried under earth, transparent cathedral, crystal of the sea, oblivion of the waves. And now, on each table of the world, your agile essence, salt, spreading a vital luster on our food. Preserver of the ancient stores in the holds of ships. You were the explorer of the seas, matter foretold in the secret half-open trails of foam. Dust of water, the tongue receives through you a kiss from the marine night. Taste melds your oceanity into each rich morsel. And thus the least wave of the salt shaker teaches us not merely domestic purity, but also the essential flavor of the infinite.'

ELLIOTT: American poet, Philip Levine, reading Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Salt."

(Credits)

ELLIOTT: That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.