30 January 2009


Last night the Mister flew in from Brussels bearing a big pile of books I had left there, most of them poetry. Isn't it fun to be reunited with books? Like seeing old friends again.

In honor of my mom's visit, I've chosen a Wislawa Szymborska poem about music (mom is a musician) from out of that stack. It's one that has long impressed me as much for the inventiveness of Szymborska's conception as for the virtuosic translation by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. I wish I could read the original to get more of a sense of the work they've done, but it comes through quite brilliantly anyway.


Poised beneath a twig-wigged tree,
she spills her sparkling vocal powder:
slippery sound slivers, silvery
like spider's spittle, only louder.

Oh yes, she Cares (with a high C)
for Fellow Humans (you and me);
for us she'll twitter nothing bitter;
she'll knit her fitter, sweeter glitter;
her vocal chords mince words for us
and crumble croutons, with crisp crunch
(lunch for her little lambs to munch)
into a cream-filled demitasse.

But hark! It's dark! Oh doom too soon!
She's threatened by the black bassoon!
It's hoarse and coarse, it's grim and gruff,
it calls her dainty voice's bluff -
Basso Profondo, end this terror,
do-re-mi mene tekel et cetera!

You want to silence her, abduct her
to our chilly life behind the scenes?
To our Siberian steppes of stopped-up sinuses,
frogs in all throats, eternal hems and haws,
where we, poor souls, gape soundlessly
like fish? And this is what you wish?

Oh nay! Oh nay! Though doom be nigh,
she'll keep her chin and pitch up high!
Her fate is hanging by a hair
of voice so thin it sounds like air,
but that's enough for her to take
a breath and soar, without a break,

chandelierward; and while she's there,
her vox humana crystal-clears
the whole world up. And we're all ears.


Have a wonderful weekend. I know I will!

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