Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The One on Hunger Camp at Jaslo by Wislawa Szymborska

http://500px.com/photo/870904

 

Hunger Camp At Jaslo
by Wislawa Szymborska




 Write it. Write. In ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they were given no food,
they all died of hunger. "All. How many?
It's a big meadow. How much grass
for each one?" Write: I don't know.
History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read,
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody's place in the line.

We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning.
They sang with their mouths full of earth.
"A lovely song of how war strikes straight
at the heart." Write: how silent.
"Yes."


Translated by Grazyna Drabik and Austin Flint



I read someone about powerful sentences. That, writing powerfully had nothing to do with writing verbosely, or writing prettily. It was having power and a statement.

Phrases such as "History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:"

and "
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning."

and "
They sang with their mouths full of earth."


Those are powerful sentences. 


I read this (quite shallow, by the way) column on powerful writing in a blog. On the comments, I wrote "to know how to write powerful sentences one must write poetry first."


What is poetry, if not a bubbling of strong statements? What is poetry, but the image of something, an image of an IMPORTANT something, stated in a few words? Of an action, murmured in only a verse?


When I read this poem, I imagine a horrid field, covered with a blanket of gray clouds and the smell of death. I feel hints of the Holocaust. I hear injustice, horror, tears. I feel so much, in only two stanzas.


And that, is what poetry is about.


Have a nice day,
Anne

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