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To my Socks: Poetry from Mark Edmundson

Mark EdmundsonMark Edmundson is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He shares poetry to inspire a smile. 

Edmundson specializes in Romanticism, Poetry, and 19th-Century English and American Literature. He is the author of fifteen books, and his essays appear in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New York Times Magazine. Edmundson was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a National Endowment for the Humanities/Daniels Family Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Virginia.


To my Socks


Where do you go?

What region, what soil, what clime do you voyage to

When you leave my drawer or dryer

And poof—depart?


Socks in a Suitcase


Two months ago I bought a dozen pairs—sports socks, not cheap—

Known for wicking (wicking?)

Padded at the heal, strong in toe, soft as breath, sturdy as chain mail:

We’re down to six, maybe seven pairs—I’ve got to check the wash.

What’s with the rest?  Where did you go?

Did you go to London to visit the queen?

Did you glide into the cosmos on a sock-shaman journey to

Discover where you came from, and your purpose in this world?

(I could have answered you, no trouble, saved you the effort.)

Did you traverse the spiritual ether to collect at the handsomely be-socked feet 

Of Pablo Neruda, author of the greatest sock poem yet, “Ode to My Socks”?

Did he tell you what you needed to know?

(He’s a communist—a subversive—you better watch out for him.)

Do you sometimes vacation in warmer climates, Florida maybe, 

Taking a break from the incessant demands of me and my tight shoes?

Often you do return: like a bad penny or a good joke,

The prodigal sock comes home and I step forward

And bless you, with a little protective irony between us.

What would you like, prodigal socks? What would keep you from straying?

Foot powder? Manicures? Pumice stone applied to my soles to 

Make my old feet baby feet, smooth as marble and marble cool?

Stop your peregrinations Odyssean socks!

Suspend your prodigal ways!

To which, a cottony, muffled voice replies:

You could wash us by hand, the way a good servant should his master,

You could lay us on towels as though we were maidens basking by the stream

And you could never, never, drop us silently screaming into the roiling holocaust 

        Called Samsung.

You could, but still you would not avoid our wayward ways.

We are of the nature of things, ever passing softly into oblivion;

We are envoys of the god Time, hand puppet gurus, here to teach

That nothing endures but mutability. 

Tiny priests of this truth we are.

Why quest and meditate, haunt Delphi, throw the I Ching,

Consult the learned astrologer, or blear your eyes over ancient books,

When you can find truth, unbeautiful truth, in us!

Present when we are absent, there when we are here, ever going, ever gone

Returning again transformed, if we return at all.

Unbeautiful truth in us!


You might also enjoy reading Good Mood by Mark Edmundson