Thursday, December 22, 2011

The One on Lot's Wife by Wislawa Szymborska

Do you know the story of Lot's wife? If not, you must brush up your Bible-reading. I am kidding of course. Everyone is free to do and think what they want.

(Awkward minute of silence.)

Anyway, what the story tells, is that during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, G'd tells Abraham that Lot's family can escape with the condition that they never look back at what they're leaving behind. Everyone obeys this order except Lot's wife, who can't resist the temptation to see what was her home being destroyed.

This has many interpretations which I won't dwelve in because I would be losing all track of my story.

Lot's Wife

 They say I looked back out of curiosity.
But I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn't have to keep staring at the righteous nape
of my husband Lot's neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
he wouldn't so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Our two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop.
I felt age within me. Distance.
The futility of wandering. Torpor.
I looked back setting my bundle down.
I looked back not knowing where to set my foot.
Serpents appeared on my path,
spiders, field mice, baby vultures.
They were neither good nor evil now--every living thing
was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
I looked back in desolation.
In shame because we had stolen away.
Wanting to cry out, to go home.
Or only when a sudden gust of wind
unbound my hair and lifted up my robe.
It seemed to me that they were watching from the walls of Sodom
and bursting into thunderous laughter again and again.
I looked back in anger.
To savor their terrible fate.
I looked back for all the reasons given above.
I looked back involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot, growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in my tracks.
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on the edge.
It was then we both glanced back.
No, no. I ran on,
I crept, I flew upward
until darkness fell from the heavens
and with it scorching gravel and dead birds.
I couldn't breathe and spun around and around.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was dancing.
It's not inconceivable that my eyes were open.
It's possible I fell facing the city.

What is clear about this poem is that it is written in gesture of disdain towards the interpretations that fault Lot's wife for ridiculous reasons, and the speaker's disdain for this feeling of an All Powerful God that simply decides arbitrarily on what your destiny shall be. It also gives some opinions of the fallacies of women, of the fallacies of mankind too.

I don't agree with it on a grand scale. Some poems are to be agreed or disagreed with, and that's fine. Personally, I disagree with this one. My interpretation of the story of Lot's wife's story is that G'd didn't want them to look back to save them from the image of their homes being destroyed, and that the knowledge that they were able to advance without looking back meant that they were willing to start their lives over again, without any of the harming predisposition of looking back at "what was." And that Lot's wife wasn't really turned to stone by this image of a judgemental and all-powerful Allmighty, but that she was turned to stone metaphorically, as in, she wasn't able to advance in life because she was stuck as in "stone" to where she had been in Sodom.

This hasn't been my favorite poem by Wislawa Szymborska, but that's okay. I still have a very high opinion of it because it's so strong on its thought, on its message, etcetera. It's not a vain or intrascendent poem. It's a poem full of meaning and force, and again, this is such an important part of poetry, that I have to applaud her for it.

Thank you for reading,

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