personal favorites / poetry collections… People on a Bridge by Wisława Szymborska / poems & video

Wisława Szymborska

People on a Bridge

 
 

“Archeology”

Well, my poor man,
seems we’ve made some progress in my field.
Millennia have passed since
you first called me archaeology.

I no longer require
your stone gods,
your ruins with legible inscriptions.

Show me your whatever
and I’ll tell you who you were.
Something’s bottom, something’s top.
A scrap of engine. A picture tube’s neck.
An inch of cable. Fingers turned to dust.
Or even less than that, or even less.

Using a method
that you couldn’t have known then,
I can stir up memory
in countless elements.
Traces of blood are forever.
Lies shine.
Secret codes resound.
Doubts and intentions come to light.

If I want to
(and you can’t be too sure
that I will),
I’ll peer down the throat of your silence,
I’ll read your views
from the sockets of your eyes,
I’ll remind you in infinite detail
of what you expected from life besides death.

Show me your nothing
that you’ve left behind
and I’ll build from it a forest and a highway,
an airport, baseness, tenderness,
a missing home.

Show me your little poem
and I’ll tell you why it wasn’t written
any earlier or later than it was.

Oh no, you’ve got me wrong.
Keep your funny piece of paper
with its scribbles.
All I need for my ends
is your layer of dirt
and the long gone
smell of burning.

 
~
 

“View with a Grain of Sand”

We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine, without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect, or apt.

Our glance, our touch means nothing to it.
It doesn’t feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it, it is not different from falling on anything else
with no assurance that it has finished falling
or that it is falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.

The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
The water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beheath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes.
A second second.
A third.
But they’re three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like courier with urgent news.
But that’s just our simile.
The character is inverted, his hasts is make believe,
his news inhuman.
 
         (Trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

 
~
 
Video tribute…

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~ by samofthetenthousandthings on May 17, 2012.

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