Wear the Words: “Tower of Light”


illustration by John Lawson
illustration by John Lawson


O tower of light, sad beauty

that magnified necklaces and statues in the sea,

calcareous eye, insignia of the vast waters, cry

of the mourning petrel, tooth of the sea, wife

of the Oceanian wind, O separate rose

from the long stem of the trampled bush

that the depths converted into archipelago,

O natural star, green diadem,

alone in your lonesome dynasty,

still unattainable, elusive, desolate

like one drop, like one grape, like the sea.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda, in this whirlwind of a poem, seems to present the portrait of a sturdy lighthouse in a jam-packed, metaphor-rich, lengthy, convoluted way. Lost at sea in the darkest hour of night, surrounded in all directions by dark water, the tower of light, that lonely yet enduring structure, is the only thing capable of saving your life. While I hope none of us find ourselves in that predicament anytime soon, we can certainly keep the image in mind as we rummage through our closets.

This little poem’s length should not be discounted; its 11 lines demand to be unpacked. Every metaphor Neruda tacks on adds a bit more to our understanding of the light tower’s importance. The tower is everything that represents the ocean: the “eye,” the “insignia,” the “cry” of seabirds, the “wife” of its winds. It is the single resilient “rose” that was not crushed by the “depths” of the sea along with the rest of the bush. It is the “diadem” that is specifically green, which was Neruda’s color choice for ink and his personal symbol for hope. The tower is, at the same time, as negligible as “one drop” of the sea and as great as the sea itself. So. Although you probably didn’t ask for it, you now hopefully have somewhat of an understanding of what any of those words (may or may not) mean. So let’s move on to the fashion.

The fashion buzzword that immediately comes to mind after reading this poem is timeless. Timeless clothing has that weird quality that makes it both always present yet never exactly relevant, as the lighthouse in the poem does. And, like the lighthouse, timeless clothing has been nothing but resilient, standing strong and proud through countless decades and trends. Combine this with clothing specifics drawn from the ample imagery Neruda provides. To me, the lines “insignia of the vast waters” and “wife of the Oceanian wind” exude rich, deep blue, like an ocean at night. A fabric with silky texture would perfectly echo the motion of waves, and, in that deep blue color, would embody the image of an elegant and dynamic sea.

To put Neruda’s words into a single outfit, wear a blouse made of the above mentioned fabric with a classic structured jacket and pants. Add to it with details taken from the poem, such as wearing a small green pendant necklace to play on the diadem, carrying around a particularly hardy rose, or walking around eating grapes as an ode to the last line. With this ensemble, you will look just like a lighthouse: subtly powerful, poised, and as grand as the ocean itself.

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