Autonomy (Wislawa Szymborska)

"It's not just easy to explain to someone else what you don't understand yourself"

Wislawa Szymborska - 1972 

     In memory of Halina Poswiatowska 

     When in danger the sea-cucumber divides itself in two: 
     one self it surrenders for devouring by the world, 
     with the second it makes good its escape. 

     It splits violently into perdition and salvation, 
     into fine and reward, into what was and what will be. 

     In the middle of its body there opens up a chasm 
     with two shores that are immediately alien.

     On one shore death, on the other life. 
     Here despair, there hope. 

     If a scale exists, the balance does not tip. 
     If there is justice, here it is. 

     To die as much as necessary, without going too far. 
     To grow back as much as needed, from the remnant that survives. 

     We know how to divide ourselves, how true, we too. 
     But only into a body and an interrupted whisper. 
     Into body and poetry. 

     On one side the throat, laughter on the other, 
     that's light and quickly dying. 

     Here a heavy heart, there non omnis moriar, 
     just three little words like three feathers in ascent. 

     The chasm does not cut us in two. 
     The chasm surrounds us. 

Read 'On Szymborska' by Czeslaw Milosz- *NYRB

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