Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A posthumous poem by Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska published about 350 poems in her lifetime. (Why so few? "I have a trash bin at home," she said.) When she died she was working on a collection entitled Wystarczy, "Enough", containing 13 poems. This is one of them:

Someone I've been observing
for some time

He doesn't come collectively.
He doesn't crowd together.
He doesn't take part en masse.
He doesn't revel noisily.

He doesn't call out
as a choir.
He doesn't declare far and wide.
He doesn't speak on behalf.
None of this questioning
in his presence -
who is for, and who is against,
thank you, I can't see.

His head is missing,
where head to head,
where step to step, shoulder to shoulder
and straight to the target,
with flyers in pockets
and a product of hops.

Where only at the beginning
is it bucolic and angelic,
because soon one group
will mix with the other
and it won't be certain
whose are, ah, whose are
these rocks and flowers,
cheers and sticks.

He's employed by the City Sanitation Bureau.
At pale dawn,
from the place where it was happening,
he gathers, takes away, throws into the dumpster,
what is tacked to trees half-living,
what is trampled into the grass.

Ripped banners,
Broken bottles,
Burned effigies,
Gnawed bones,
Rosaries, whistles and condoms.

Once he found a pigeon cage in the bushes.
He took it home

and keeps it
so it can remain empty.

Wisława Szymborska (trans. Agnieszka Le Nart)
Wystarczy (Wydawnictwo a5, 2012)

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