Ode to a Hammock

How can an instant on a hammock parallel an expression of love or an observation of brilliance or the recognition of the cosmos?
By Maria Montalvo | May 19, 2013

If I could write poetry, I would write an ode to a hammock.

Pablo Neruda wrote a delightful book of poems called Odes to Common Things. In it, he wrote about bread, a pair of socks, an onion, and even soap. But for a hammock? No.

If I could, I would write about how the fabric of a hammock allows bare feet to slide into the right position and feel as if they never need a sock or a shoe again.

I would attempt to describe how the ropes of the hammock do not seem to strain under additional weight, but stretch out gracefully and create the sensation of floating.

The surface can hold a body in any position, flat-backed or twisted like a pretzel, and in any position on the hammock itself, lying longwise perfectly centered or perpendicular across it to produce just the slightest swing.

I would write prose about how the hammock envelopes all of you to see nothing peripherally but only above. From a hammock, the clouds move, seemingly in all directions at once.

The distinctions in the shades of blue in the sky can be studied, or the whites or grays, or that hazy color made up by a bit of each that we only see over Puget Sound on days when the rain does not come.

A poet could find a way to be subtle in a description of the comparative superiority of a hammock to a picnic blanket or a bench, noting the damp from the grass under shoulders or a nudge of discomfort from a wrinkle in the cloth or even the forming of lines in the skin from slats.

From the perspective of the hammock, it is possible to take the time to consider the underside of the branches of the tree but not feel the dizzying spin from looking up a tree trunk while standing.

My poem would dedicate at least one stanza to the distinct ridges and light green, nearly chartreuse, of the underside of the leaves so clearly visible while the darker shade on top collects in a muddle of deep green.

A true poet could write of how lying in a hammock is like being invisible within the natural world… the birds gather at the feeder and in the trees, the bugs and the honey bees are not startled by this figure in the hammock, flittering about as if alone.

I would have to write a verse of how a hammock is made for spring days—warm, but never hot, no humidity to make lying in the sun uncomfortable, the air moving just enough from the constant breeze from the water. But I would also have to remind the reader that a hammock is the perfect place to watch the stars at night, nuzzled into a warm blanket, rocked to sleep.

My ode to a hammock would be especially glorious when I reached the time in the poem to acknowledge a moment of, perhaps, very small happiness.

How can an instant on a hammock parallel an expression of love or an observation of brilliance or the recognition of the cosmos? As we learned from Neruda, a bit of adoration for the common is noteworthy.

During the time on the hammock, I feel the sun on my face, I sense the slight breeze along my shoulders. I don’t question, or worry, or ponder, or compare.

I see the colors and the movement and realize, for just an instant, that my quiet repose would make someone who loves me, but who is not here, very happy.

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