and in the same way, suit, I am shaping you, poking out your elbows, wearing you threadbare,
Just in case we forgot whom he's talking to: it's his pal, the suit. After waxing poetic on how the outside world shapes him, the speaker accredits this "shaping" to the suit.
But doesn't he give form to the suit, and not the other way around?
Yes, but the suit also makes it possible for him to go on his daily adventures. He can't very well get much done if he's naked (most places have laws against that sort of thing). Without something to put on every morning, the speaker would be unable to take the next step and leave the house. It might seem like a trivial thing, but without it, the speaker is lost.
It's not just a one-way street, though. Not only does the suit help shape him, but he, the speaker, shapes the suit.
He fills it out, and also wears it out—just like the world shapes him, and also wears him down.
and so your life grows in the image of my own.
Heads up out there: we've got more personification. This time, Neruda has given suit its own life. Though, the suits' life seems molded closely to the speaker's own.
In fact, it seems like the speaker has trouble telling the difference between them. When he's wearing the suit, the suit is part of him.
So what happens when he takes it off? Is the suit only "alive" when he's wearing it?
In the wind you flap and hum as if you were my soul,
We're not gonna lie, Shmoopers; these lines present a strange simile. The last time we checked, our souls were not visible. So how would anyone know if they were flapping and humming in the wind?
Perhaps the speaker feels like his soul is on his mind. Maybe it even annoys him, like a coat that keeps flying up when it's windy, or like a hum that he cannot ignore.
In any case, the whole business of the suit definitely has him considering his soul.
Like we said, Neruda was all about using the daily things to ponder the bigger questions. He even wrote an ode to his socks for crying out loud.
in bad moments you cling to my bones, abandoned, at nighttime
They've gone through thick and thin, these two. And when times are hard, the suit clings to him, afraid.
It's worth noting here that other translations replace "abandoned" with "empty." Put that way, the suit was never really anything but a suit, after all. It's "empty." In our translation, the suit has left the speaker. It's actually abandoned him (well, his bones anyway).
Either way, when the speaker is afraid, he feels pretty alone. In these moments, the suit becomes just a suit.
Notice the end stop after "bones"? That's quite an image, one that Neruda wants us to ponder for a moment.
darkness and dream people with their phantoms your wings and mine.
Our speaker's suit is even with him at night, while he sleeps.
But, doesn't he take it off and put it on the chair, where it waits for him until morning? Perhaps, the speaker and the suit have become so close that the speaker has forgotten that they are ever apart. Or maybe… he just fell asleep with his clothes on. We've all been there, right?
Whatever the case, he's having a bad dream. In this nightmare, the two of them face other people's phantoms.
That makes sense, since the speaker said he spends a lot of time with other people's struggles.
In fact, Neruda, the "poet of the people", would have liked the idea of sharing the struggles of the common man.
Here, he and his suit share in these struggles, which take the form of scary ghosts.
Oh, and suit and the speaker also have wings. Hmm…
That's quite the imagery, but what does it mean? Perhaps they are flying together, through the speaker's dreams. Or perhaps our speaker is starting to take on the more magical properties of his suit. Let's read on to see…