Planet Earth

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,

has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;

and the hands 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 meters 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 blessings 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.  

Dive in

1. Is the subject, the “it,” the same in the epigraph by Neruda as in the poet’s first lines? What is “it”?

2. The poet uses slant rhyme to fit the constraints of the form at times, elsewhere straight rhyme – can you identify cases of both?

3. Was anything surprising to you about this poem? What images made you feel awake?

4. Are there places where you feel the analogy stretches thin?

5. If you were reciting this poem, would you pause at the end of the lines that don’t have a comma or full stop? Or would you run over into the next line? What parts would you emphasize?

Writing exercise: Try your hand at writing a glosa. Choose four lines from a poem you love, and find the freedom that comes within constraint as you use these lines as scaffolding for a new poem.

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Bibliographical info

P.K. Page, "Planet Earth" from P.K. Page : poems selected and new. Copyright © 2002 by P.K. Page. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source:  P.K. Page : poems selected and new (P.K. Page / The Porcupine's Quill, 2002)


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