Saturday, September 10, 2005

After Every War...

—Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone's got to tidy up.
Things won't pick
themselves up, after all.

Someone's got to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.

Someone's got to trudge
through sludge and ashes,
through the sofa springs,
the shards of glass,
the bloody rags.

Someone's got to lug the post
to prop the wall,
someone's got to glaze the window,
set the door in its frame.

No sound bites, no photo opportunities
and it takes years.
All the cameras have gone
to other wars.

The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railroad stations, too.
Shirt sleeves will be rolled
to shreds.

Someone, broom in hand,
still remembers how it was.
Someone else listens, nodding
his unshattered head.
But others are bound to be bustling nearby
who'll find all that
a little boring.

From time to time someone still must
dig up a rusted argument
from underneath a bush
and haul it off to the dump.

Those who knew
what this was all about
must make way for those
who know little.
And less than that.
And at last nothing less
than nothing.

Someone's got to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at clouds.

—translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh


Catch James Lee Jobe, Susan Kelly-DeWitt and Sandra MacPherson reading at the Avid Reader in Davis tonight from Charlie McDonald's new book, El Sobrante: Selected Poems 1975-2005 (7:30) or go to the Gene Bloom tribute at The Book Collector in Sac (8 pm). Sunday you can hear Robbie Grossklaus at Barnes & Noble, Weberstown Mall in Stockton (7 pm) or go to the Open Mic at Starbucks, 1520 Del Webb Blvd., Lincoln (3-5 pm) with the Poet's Club of Lincoln/Friends of the Lincoln Library (Info: Sue CLark, 916-434-9229). And Josh McKinney of CSUS reads at SPC (HQ, 25th & R, Sac) Monday night (7:30).

—Wislawa Szymborska

We are very polite to each other,
insist it's nice meeting after all these years.

Our tigers drink milk.
Our hawks walk on the ground.
Our sharks drown in water.
Our wolves yawn in front of the open cage.
Our serpents have shaken off lightning,
monkeys—inspiration, peacocks—feathers.
The bats—long ago now—have flown out of our hair.

We fall silent in mid-phrase,
smiling beyong salvation.
Our people
have nothing to say.

—translated from the Polish by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire



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