The poem uses figurative language to compare the socks to various animals. The speaker’s gratitude for the gift of the socks inspires his imagination to transform them into beautiful creatures. The animals come from all parts of the ecosystem: the sea, the sky, and the earth, but are all distinctly Chilean.
Lines 6-7: The texture of the socks are compared to soft rabbits in a simile.
Lines 17-19: In a metaphor, the speaker’s feet become two woolen fish. This means that they are in the process of transformation at this point, since they keep their wooly quality even as fish, in a comic image.
Lines 20-21: In an extension of the fish metaphor, his feet become ”two long sharks/of lapis blue.” “Lapis-blue” describes the bright ultramarine-colored mineral lapis lazuli, which is found in Chile. So his feet, as sharks, have taken on the color of the sea and also of a mineral from the earth.
Line 24: "two mammoth blackbirds." His feet have changed from sea creatures to creatures of the air, and large ones. This gives them even more wild freedom.
Lines 46-52: In a simile for his urge to save his socks, the speaker compares this to the way that children keep fireflies in a jar. The practice of trapping them in a bottle connotes both wonder and cruelty.
Lines 56-63: This time, the socks are figured as birds. The speaker wants to tame them, to turn them into pets by keeping them in a golden cage and feeding them delicious treats.
Lines 63-69: Using a simile, the speaker compares himself putting on his socks to explorers who eat a rare deer. In this, he considers the human condition in which beauty is sacrificed out of necessity. The word choice of “explorers,” instead of hunters, means that their intention was to seek out and appreciate the world’s treasures. That is why they consume it with “remorse.” The socks are compared to the deer, so you can imagine them as “rare.” In a world of industrially produced clothing, handcrafted socks are in fact rare.
The speaker describes the socks in terms of light and darkness throughout the poem, representing their ability to delight and inspire him.
Lines 13-15: He imagines that the socks were made with “threads of/dusk/and sheep's wool.” We have anticipated sheep’s wool, because they were knitted by shepherd's hands. Mixed with this mundane material is a magical one: dusk, which describes the quality of light in the early evening—the socks are glowing.
Lines 26-33: In a hyperbolic gesture, the speaker calls the socks “celestial,” meaning heavenly, or filled with the glow of stars. These amazing socks honor the speaker’s feet. In describing these humble socks as so special, the poem has consecrated them, made them divine.
Lines 39-45: The socks continue to glow as earlier in the poem, but this time they are “luminous” because they’re on fire. If the feet are firefighters, and the socks are the fire, then they are in conflict. But the firefighters are exhausted and unworthy of the fight. There is also an implied threat that his feet might burn up in the fire of the socks. The gloriousness of the socks is overpowering him, and he is not up to the challenge of being so honored.
The socks not only transform their shape and size and animal powers; they also change color throughout the poem.
Lines 21-22: “Lapis-blue” describes the bright ultramarine-colored mineral lapis lazuli, which is found in Chile. So his feet, as sharks, have taken on the color of the sea and also of a mineral from the earth.
Lines 23-24: The “thread” that shoots through the sharks brings them back to the literal—to being socks—but as the thread is “golden,” they continue to be magical and shiny. The poem mixes literal and figurative language to explore the process of transformation in the speaker’s imagination as he regards his feet.
Line 25: His feet become “two mammoth blackbirds/two cannons.” His feet have changed from sea creatures to creatures of the air, and large ones. They have also changed their color from blue to black. And once black, they become cannons. So the color here is a bridge in the alchemical process.
Lines 32-33: In Spanish, the word translated here as "celestial” is also the name for sky-blue.
Lines 59-60: The speaker wants to tame the socks, to turn them into pets by keeping them in a golden cage. This is a metaphor for not wearing them, and treating them like precious art. Instead, he frees them by wearing them.
Line 63: The “rosy pink” melon flesh sounds particularly tempting and decadent. It could also refer to perfect feet (either feet other than his own, or his when they are clean).
Ode to My Socks Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ode to My Socks is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.