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Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Passing


It's often with great surprise and affectionate sadness when we hear about the passing of someone we admire.

The word gets around fast.

            You can almost feel its powerful vibration.

A growing, intensified pulse of emotion that penetrates the heart so quickly one ignores the well intentioned voice mails, tweets, or causal conversations.
 
Death is like that… in its temporary vanity.

                                                Only Love remains.  

The truly under-rated and gifted Polish poet Wistlawa Szymborska (1923 – 2012) passed away this week at her Krakow home. 

Although my appreciation for her work blossomed in the last year or so, her insightful and intelligent poetry continues to be a soulful treasure chest worthy of continued exploration, even now at this critical juncture! I can only hope others will learn...

He
re’s one from my earmarked anthology entitled Poems New and Collected (Harcourt,1998).
 



On Death, Without Exaggeration

Photo: AFP/Getty
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, trachea,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

III 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 far 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.

© Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh


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