“The English world ‘symbol’ is the Greek word symbolon which means, in the ancient world, one half of a knucklebone carried as a token of identity to someone who has the other half. Together the two halves compose one meaning. A metaphor is a species of symbol. So is a lover.”
“Each one of us is but the symbolon of a human being—sliced in half like a flatfish, two instead of one —and each pursues a neverending search for the symbolon of himself.”
–Aristophones in Plato’s Symposium
[See Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love with Poetry, pg 260.]
“Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul.”
I fell next to him. His body rolled over.
It was tight as a string before it snaps.
Shot in the back of the head—”This is how
you’ll end.” “Just lie quietly,” I said to myself.
Patience flowers into death now.
“Der springt noch auf,” I heard above me.
Dark filthy blood was drying on my ear.
–Miklós Radnóti, Szentkirályszabadja, October 31, 1944, Translated by Steven Polgar, Stephen Berg, & S. J. Marks
Continue reading “Postcard 4”
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.
Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.
They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.
Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.
–Wisława Szymborska, From “No End of Fun”, 1967, Translated by Stanisław Barańczak & Clare Cavanagh
But my life, oh, my life, had been a constant search for an enormous dream in which my fellow creatures and animals, plants, chimeras, stars, and minerals were in a pre-established harmony, a dream that is forgotten because it must be forgotten, and is sought desperately, and only sporadically does one find its tragic fragments in the warmth of a person, in some specific situation, a glance—in memory, too, of course, in some specific pain, some moment. I loved that harmony with a passion; I loved it in voices, voices. And then, instead of harmony, there was nothing but scraps and tatters. And perhaps that alone is what it means to be a poet.
–Aleksander Wat, My Century, cited in Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, pg 177.