Saturday, February 27, 2010

“Theatrical Impressions”
Wislawa Szymborska
1923- Polish
translated by Adam Czerniawski

In tragedy I find the sixth act most important:
when they arise from stage battlefields,
adjust their wigs and robes,
pull out the knife from the breast,
remove the noose from the neck,
stand in line amongst the living
facing the audience.

Bows individual and collective:
a white hand on a wounded heart,
a suicide curtseying,
a beheaded nodding.

Bows in pairs:
fury offering an arm to gentleness,
the victim gazing blissfully into the torturer's eyes,
the revolutionary ungrudgingly marching with the tyrant.

Eternity squashed with the toe of a golden slipper.
Morals dispersed with the brim of a hat.
An incorrigible readiness to repeat it all tomorrow.

A file of those who died much earlier
in acts three and four and between the acts.
The miraculous return of those vanished without trace.
The thought that in the wings they patiently waited
not shedding their costumes
not taking off their make-up
moves me more than tragic tirades.

But truly uplifting is the falling curtain
and what can still be glimpsed beneath it:
here a hand hastily grabs a flower,
there another snatches a dropped sword.
Only then a third, unseen,
accomplishes its task:
grips me by the throat.

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