Sunday, July 20, 2008

Polish Poets - Wisława Szymborska

Hello there. Yet it is hot as it does in july, still our blog somehow escapes the silent mutilation of a paralyzed member...

I open this new series about Poetry, because it is one thing, that I really enjoy reading, and I wanted to share this joy with you - my invisible friends.

First of all - a women of a nation, someone who does not need any further introduction, namely - Wisława Szymborska - the Nobel Laureate in literature.

The Turn of the Century

It was supposed to be better than the others, our 20th century,

But it won't have time to prove it.

Its years are numbered,

its step unsteady,

its breath short.

Already too much has happened

that was not supposed to happen.

What was to come about

has not.

Spring was to be on its way,

and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.

The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes

were never to happen again

such as war and hunger and so forth.

These were to be respected:

the defenselessness of the defenseless,

trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world

faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.

Wisdom isn't jolly.


Is no longer the same young girl

et cetera. Alas.

God was at last to believe in man:

good and strong,

but good and strong

are still two different people.

How to live--someone asked me this in a letter,

someone I had wanted

to ask that very thing.

Again and as always,

and as seen above

there are no questions more urgent

than the naive ones.

Cat in an empty apartment

Dying--you wouldn't do that to a cat.

For what is a cat to do

in an empty apartment?

Climb up the walls?

Brush up against the furniture?

Nothing here seems changed,

and yet something has changed.

Nothing has been moved,

and yet there's more room.

And in the evenings the lamp is not on.

One hears footsteps on the stairs,

but they're not the same.

Neither is the hand

that puts a fish on the plate.

Something here isn't starting

at its usual time.

Something here isn't happening

as it should.

Somebody has been here and has been,

and then has suddenly disappeared

and now is stubbornly absent.

All the closets have been scanned

and all the shelves run through.

Slipping under the carpet and checking came to nothing.

The rule has even been broken and all the papers scattered.

What else is there to do?

Sleep and wait.

Just let him come back,

let him show up.

Then he'll find out

that you don't do that to a cat.

Going toward him

faking reluctance,


on very offended paws.

And no jumping, purring at first.

translation: Joanna Maria Trzeciak

Love at First Sight

They both thought
that a sudden feeling had united them
This certainty is beautiful,
Even more beautiful than uncertainty.

They thought they didn't know each other,
nothing had ever happened between them,
These streets, these stairs, this corridors,
Where they could have met so long ago?

I would like to ask them,
if they can remember -
perhaps in a revolving door
face to face one day?
A "sorry" in the crowd?
"Wrong number" on the 'phone?
- but I know the answer.
No, they don't remember.

How surprised they would be
For such a long time already
Fate has been playing with them.

Not quite yet ready
to change into destiny,
which brings them nearer and yet further,
cutting their path
and stifling a laugh,
escaping ever further;
There were sings, indications,
undecipherable, what does in matter.
Three years ago, perhaps
or even last Tuesday,
this leaf flying
from one shoulder to another?
Something lost and gathered.
Who knows, perhaps a ball already
in the bushes, in childhood?

There were handles, door bells,
where, on the trace of a hand,
another hand was placed;
suitcases next to one another in the
left luggage.
And maybe one night the same dream
forgotten on walking;

But every beginning
is only a continuation
and the book of fate is
always open in the middle.

translation: Roman Gren, Sarah Hardenberg

Hitler's first photograph

And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hittler's little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna's Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don't know:
printer's, doctor's, merchant's, priest's?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister's daughter?

Precious little angel, mommy's sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no death of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder's music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother's fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who's there, it's Adolf's heartchen knocking.

A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let's not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.

The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate's footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

translation: Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh

1 comment:

crime analyst said...

Rafi! How are you my friend? I'm sorry to have been so silent these days- all my inspiration has been in larger projects. These poems are good and I will add to them...