Saturday, November 12, 2005

A New Poet

My choir friend Betty is around 80. You’d never know it to look at her. She’s in great shape, she wears the latest fashion, and she regularly goes to the opera. I also recently came to know that she loves poetry. I loaned her my David Budbill collection “While We Have Feet” several weeks ago. Today she brought me what looks like an extremely interesting collection of poems by Wislawa Szymborska (a Polish poet). Both Budbill and Szymborska have this unique way of portraying death. Here is one of her poems:

On Death, without Exaggeration by Wislawa Szymborska

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

Death
always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

By Wislawa Szymborska
From "The People on the Bridge", 1986

WOW! That’s all I have to say...

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