Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wisława Szymborska-Reality Demands

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Reality demands
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica.

There’s a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint
on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Chaeronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
cannot escape
the approaching atmospheric front.

There is so much Everything
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
Music pours
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on the sunlit decks.

So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.
Where not a stone still stands,
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.
This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice’s fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don’t cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only that blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can’t help
laughing at that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mikhail Privshin - Seasons - Selections


Many admire nature, but few take it to heart, and even those who do take it to heart are not often able to converge with nature, to feel within it their own souls.

--Mikhail Privshin


Yesterday was a sun-filled day. The Spring of light had begun on the road. A sunbeam warmed, heated the road; an automobile passed, and the track began to gleam. My leg was creaking in the snow,  my walking stick still squealed as I walked, but bald land appeared in the rut, and then a foot, shod in boots, slipped. So it was that on the road began the Spring of light.


Invisible stars of snow are now falling from above; near us in the air shines a calm shower of sparks, which settles on the knots of trees, and because of this, the tree is sparkling from top to bottom, every tiny branch, every bud tightly-sealed by winter.

Inhaling the fragrance of flowers, of bark, of the past year's leaves, always stirs something close to remembrance . But it happens that among these aromas will be one that explicitly requires the recollection of a meeting with someone you know well in essence, but you can not call him by name nor determine the relationship with him.
Behold, all these fragrances are connected with childhood: it is something happened at the first meeting with the aroma. So, perhaps all our consciousness grew out of this childhood material that has remained since, when I lived unconsciously?
All that I come to know, it is this way with everyone, what is new is only that which, while holding an awareness of the past, I open this consciousness to everything.


A solemn day emerged from the thick fog, full of peace and the gleam of mist-irrigated leaves - the fullness of summer nature.

This radiant morning in the dark forest was a great silence, I felt her, became engulfed in myself, and when I glanced out from within, I saw that in the glow between the trees bright drops of night-dew were falling from the branches and due to these droplets, the wings of the ferns began trembling below.
So in silence one deepens and sees all of one's self, as if in a window, and completely free. And then there is the wind, which is never himself, but is someone whispering in my ear, is slandering, trumpeting, howling. And if it were that I did not know that this is what the wind is doing, so I would've thought that I was not there, but someone else had come here instead.
But it so happens, a quite gentle breeze plays mutely in the leaves and tree branches. Then it seems I'm deaf and cannot hear the music from the touch of invisible beings to the leaves. I look, at this time, at the fluctuations in the leaves and twigs and guess about the music. More!-- Then it seems to me that we are as the leaves: we tremble, and struggle, and rush around as if deaf, without understanding the music proceeding from us.

Above are a few impromptu translations from the writings of Mikhail Privshin  (1873-1954).

A link to an article in English.

“I know quite well that there is much poverty in the world, and that sometimes it seems almost inhuman to speak of the joy of life, but at the same time it seems to me that if only we could somehow describe our joy with greater care, and thus deceive some of the weaker vessels, it would be just what was needed.”

--Mikhail Privshin 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Voice. Word. Verb.

In my grandmother's bedroom, a lamp
Blinks, beaming above a rack of shoes.
Her voice is a vague chant over a page,
Conjuring shapes from silence.
Hands appear on limbs, grasp the book;
A portcullis of yearning lifts, yawning.

Dust and sun become motes of delight
Thirsting to merge with the gravity
Of music, wondering whether
Someone with searching eyes might gaze
At the meeting-place of water and sky,
Listening for the pitch of melancholy.

In the village, the voice of a poet invokes
aspen leaves, is a melody forgotten by fountains.
Frozen universes lose their density,
Words unravel for want of a poem,
Feathers of fire-birds plummet from the blue,
Bequeathing their quills into his hands.

the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

popular on this site