Heart to Heart

Pablo Neruda’s To the Foot From Its Child

We encourage you to please read this beautiful poem and share with us (via commenting) what it is that it truly means to you.  And we mean EVERYONE… like the poetry soul train!!

To the Foot From Its Child

A child’s foot doesn’t know it’s a foot yet
And it wants to be a butterfly or an apple
But then the rocks and pieces of glass,
the streets, the stairways
and the roads of hard earth
keep teaching the foot that it can’t fly,
that it can’t be a round fruit on a branch.
Then the child’s foot
was defeated, it fell
in battle,
it was a prisoner,
condemned to life in a shoe.

Little by little without light
it got acquainted with the world in its own way
without knowing the other imprisoned foot
exploring life like a blind man.

Those smooth toe nails
of quartz in a bunch,
got harder, they changed into
an opaque substance, into hard horn
and the child’s little petals
were crushed, lost their balance,
took the form of a reptile without eyes,
with triangular heads like a worm’s.
And they had callused over,
they were covered
with tiny lava fields of death,
a hardening unasked for.
But this blind thing kept going
without surrender, without stopping
hour after hour.
One foot after another,
now as a man,
or a woman,
above,
below,
through the fields, the mines,
the stores, the government bureaus,
backward,
outside, inside,
forward,
this foot worked with its shoes,
it hardly had time
to be naked in love or in sleep
one foot walked, both feet walked
until the whole man stopped.

And then it went down
into the earth and didn’t know anything
because there everything was dark,
it didn’t know it was no longer a foot
or if they buried it so it could fly
or so it could
be an apple.

15 Responses

  1. Tracy Bleier March 1, 2012 9:00 pmReply

    I have written then deleted more than a dozen times my first impressions of this poem. I tried to turn the volume down on my inner English teacher, or inner English student – a voice that kept telling me I had to come up with some literary commentary – and each time I did, I sounded like I was trying so hard to communicate something that was really just easy to say in 4 simple lines. I love this poem.Now, the why? Well, I love this poem for the same reasons I love great art or music. I love how it surprises me and engages me and provokes me and evokes me.
    I love that it gives a whole life “seen” or perhaps “unseen” or rather, felt through the life of a foot. Aside from the beauty and sweetness of giving the main subject of the poem it’s long over due value in the world (Damn, our feet are miraculous and resilient!) but it also makes me see the foot as just another way a person could choose to live their life – just blind and confined only to become hardened and tough layered only to never fulfill their true vision (to be an apple or to fly) Yet, our feet don’t have conscious choices. But we do. So, let’s stop living life as if we were an old, under appreciated foot confined to the limitations and restrictions of our tightly tied boundaries. I say loosen up the damn laces and be an apple, or better yet, take off your shoes altogether and fly naked for once.

  2. cb March 2, 2012 4:02 amReply

    I am reading this in the Yangon airport after spending a week in a country that is essentially an old shoe. Tightly wrapping its people for decades forcing them to yield to its confinement. But I was privileged to be with a group who has been fighting for years against the restrictions of that old shoe, people who have been imprisoned for decades for their thoughts. And yet despite the suffocatingly tight laces they have fought for their childs feet & they have retained a childlike desire, yet very adult dedication, to loosen the laces. And this spirit is working and things are changing, and the laces are loosening. And if these people can do this against odds that no American has any concept of, then we have no excuse.

  3. Donna J March 2, 2012 10:41 amReply

    This poem reminds me how liberating it is to finally come to terms with life exactly as it is being offered. I had a glimmer of the peace this brings the other day. I was lying on my mat staring up at my feet and I had this incredible wave of gratitude for my tootsies and for all the places they have been and all the wonderful times they have spent touching someone else’s feet or walking in the grass. It was a moment of adoration instead of a moment where I looked at them and wished they were still as cute as they used to be. I started to think about how often do I do that, how often I look at myself and long for being 20 again and I realized that I don’t do that so much anymore (well except for those insulting occasions when I feel like the Tin Man when getting out of bed). It was a moment of reflection where I thought about how lucky I am to have had the life I have and to have traveled so many places and touched so many people. My daughter and my son used to stand on my feet while we danced through the house. My toes have been buried in the sand in places like Lamu, Tamarindo, Tulum, Chilmark, Montauk and a whole slew of other sandy places including Robert Moses where I spent my idyllic childhood. Those feet have skied down many a mountain all bound up in boots that only the devil himself could have designed or maybe Stuart Weitzman – if you’ve ever donned a pair of his shoes and danced all night you know exactly what I mean and those feet have carried me all the way through my incredible life journey and I am so grateful for where they have finally come….

    It’s a poem about the point in your life when you stop wishing for what is not being offered and you start receiving what is… Shanta

  4. Massimo March 2, 2012 10:42 amReply

    I got the impression when reading the poem that we spend so much of our lives shoved in a box and we can’t seem to see our way outside the box – like the blind man- and your soul mate is traveling right next to you but you might not even know they are there. Then you have those life changing moments like the coming of spring when your feet step outside the box and you realize that sometimes it takes a drastic change in your life for your foot to recognize that your soul mate has been traveling next to you the whole time…

  5. meg March 2, 2012 3:45 pmReply

    Beautiful, lovely poem. It reminds me of watching my children when they were little, and their wonder in every moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant. In their eyes, the ordinary was extraordinary. As babies, whole rich minutes were spent examining their toes. For children, the possibilites seem endless and limitless…why can’t feet fly? And for us as adults, the poem serves as a sweet reminder to see the world with just a bit of that delicious eyesight.

  6. Elaine March 2, 2012 5:55 pmReply

    I always look at my feet when I am in child’s pose and think they look like flippers, and then start to fantazise my rise up out of the primordial ooze that was my first home. I am always grateful for that realization, that I am still evolving, and my beginnings were so miraculous!

  7. Micki March 2, 2012 8:45 pmReply

    Perspective.  That is what I think of after reading this beautiful, probative poem.  Whether it is the perspective of the child or the foot!

    That we have a choice in what perspective we want to take.  That other circumstances often given us perspective as to our own life’s circumstances and experiences.

    One of my most cherished guideposts is that “our thoughts create our emotional reality.” Think about how a fact pattern can be so basic, but the way in which you think about it – your perspective – can create your experience .

    The other thought I have is the location of our feet relative to our bodies.  For the most part, our feet are on the bottom – unless you are a yogi or a gymnast and you are into inversions.

    The bottom can be thought of as the foundation, that which provides a basis for strength.  Or the bottom can be thought of in a not-so-kind way, as it’s position in a hierarchy. 

    I’d like to apply perspective to how I think of my feet – as one of my greatest tools in helping me move and traverse through life.  It is with gratitude that I reflect and appreciate where my feet have taken me in my own journey called life.

  8. Peter March 4, 2012 8:48 pmReply

    1000s of times smaller than the tiniest speck of dirt in the pinky toe of God’s foot is our Earth. Yet, even whimpsical desires are tended to. Surely, our feetie are destined for greatness, if so they dream.

  9. Taylor M March 4, 2012 10:51 pmReply

    I’m a girl that writes this post with her toes fully manicured and has a recent infatuation with shoes. I’m also a girl that has spent an entire year of life, living in the outer islands of a North Pacific set of islands, the Marshall Islands, with no shoes. There, shoes were a luxury (think extra beach house luxury) and electricity and running water were non-existent; shoes were actually a nuisance sometimes. What is all that containment, anyways? You don’t get to fully experience the wonders of mother natures green earth living all cooped up in a shell, why would someone choose that?

    That someone seems to me, to be America. Here in America, 99.99% of them time, yes, we have the innate ability to become whatever we want, but that lasts all of about an hour after our birth while the universe is in awe of this new precious life and no one around has a care in the world. The second we leave the hospital though, we are funneled into mainstream America and our lives begin being shaped by our environment; and unless you are fortunate enough to live on a lot of land, or by a park, or on the beach even, chances are you’ll have shoes on your feet the moment you start walking. As more generations continue growing up, it is becoming less often that individuals in America step far outside of the beaten path. Maybe, just maybe this is because it isn’t often that our feet are tough enough to withstand all that exists on a path that hasn’t been tended to before. Your feet don’t build enough strength to tread into the unknown, potentially rocky, areas if you take your shoes off but just stay on path though…and there in lies the predicament.

    If shoes were never and option, however, just as your body develops and grows, the skin on the bottom of your feet grows tough and you’re ready to walk the world, just as it presents itself to you. You wouldn’t have a choice, so you would find a way. Your life, your families lives, depends on the durability of your feet and the toughness of your skin. Shoes don’t exist and if you can’t walk on razor sharp leaf blades and meander your way through the jungle collecting coconuts (money) then sorry to say, you just aren’t going to make it.

    Our feet, in essence, are our souls. Unguarded, they have the ability to run freely. Because they have seen a life of freedom and reality, the strength they carry is immeasurable. A beautiful and strong soul (just as the universe created it) has the ability to run wild off the beaten path, discovering the immensity of splendor that earth holds. This ability exists all because these types of souls (feet) have ability to withstand all that presents itself before us, regardless of its substance.

    This poem reminds me to take my shoes off, wiggle my toes, and give so, so much gratitude to them for the places they have taken me. They have taken me to hours upon hours on my mat, where I am continually reminded of how incredibly perfect I already am and how much power and control I have in my own life; and they have taken me to and from places all over the world that remind me how much of a miracle each and every single day is.

    While I may still put a cute pair of shoes on every now and again, I have surely had them off long enough in my lifetime to build up the strength to forage my own path in this world, no matter what is on it, and love every second of it.

    • admin March 4, 2012 10:56 pmReply

      for got to mention… kinda makes the point…the Marshallese people, hands down are some of the most loving, incredible and happy beings I have met in my lifetime. No shoes needed.

  10. Liz March 5, 2012 12:05 pmReply

    This poem reminds me of my Acroyoga training. The two weeks were more about finding yourself and relating to others than flying someone on your feet. We spent most of our time in a secluded jungle under canopies of trees feeling banished knowing the Pacific Ocean and sandy beaches of The Big Island awaited our bare toes. In the jungle we were asked to bare our souls. We sat and spoke about ourselves and more often listened while others said magnificent things about us. One exercise was to finish the statement “I AM…” A beautfiul, young blonde stood up and said I AM LIGHT. I envied her. She was light. I said “I am letting go.” This was profound and relevant at the time and proved more so as the two weeks passed. I remember standing in the jungle on the last day under the hot sun in an open field far from the shade of the trees. I stretched my arms out as wide as they could and lifted my open heart and closed eyes to the sun. My heart never felt so open. I felt free. Unbound. I felt LIGHT. I felt like my child self running wildly at recess or talking vividly about my dreams to anyone who would listen. I have felt this often in my life, mostly basking in the sunlight lying in the grass, or at the beach, or on the hood of my car. I am so grateful for those moments. This poem reminds me to bask more often, let go more often; for the feeling of freedom is unparalleled.

  11. Sherri March 5, 2012 1:12 pmReply

    Whenever I see baby feet (which I absolutely adore) and the way they move I think of this. When babies are just born, they still move like they are under water. Their motions are sort of wavy and gentle. Their hands and feet are equal–with equal abilities and possibilities. They put both in their mouths and they hold things, like bottles and toys with all four appendages.

    They say that it is only by training and cultural influence that our hands become the more dexterous. Because we are taught to eat with our fingers, that’s what we do, but if we were schooled to eat, write and start the car with our toes instead, we could do it. Feet and toes have the same potential as hands and fingers, it’s just what we choose to perfect that becomes the default.

    And that’s what I think about when I see baby feet. That in that moment of innocence, that open heart moment–before you hear your doubt or the doubt of others, if you don’t give in to convention–then everything is possible.

  12. Aimee Reiss March 6, 2012 11:47 amReply

    Our feet are as good a gauge of what’s real as our breath. Just as our breath does, our feet carry us through the experience of life. Both are honest, resilient reminders of who we are and where we came from and just how fleeting and uncertain this one beautiful life truly is. In order to be grateful for our life we must first accept it as it is and come to terms with it as we are experiencing it. That is to say, coming to terms with how life is unfolding right now, in this very moment- not a promise we expect a future moment to hold or a samskara that made up our past understanding, but each moment as we live it. This poem asks us to take notice of our feet, just as in our asana and meditation practices, we are asked to listen for our breath. Why? Because that honest, tangible connection is the gateway to our souls. It is the recognition of our authenticity (hideous looking hardened toenails included)and our gratitude for that authentic self that holds the power to shift our perspective and propels us to live with more truth, more passion, and more love. Being at peace with our life is that recognition, and is also the catalyst for the freedom we poses to shape our reality through conscious choice and integrity fueled action; to live with veracity and love instead of fear (love the line to be naked in love or in sleep), and to always always dream BIG (BE that butterfly or apple if you want)!

  13. zaran March 9, 2012 11:19 amReply

    To me, this is sad, such a limited way to see, the foot (mankind or an individual) should look up and see what it is connected to and then it might not be so unsure…

    still, there are glimmers of hope and for persevering in “it’s” journey it should be justifiably proud, for self realization comes from marching forward, one “little” foot in front of the other…

    I’m glad this has brought so much comment and the initial thought of creation is always a creative miracle, namaste to all!

  14. Jennifer March 10, 2012 7:51 pmReply

    I keep asking myself, “Why does the foot want to be something other than what it is?” I think there is something lovely in it just being the foot, it’s those darn shoes that ruin everything. Feet are perfect as feet, they don’t need to be bound by shoes. “Feet” should be free!

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