Friday, February 08, 2008

594. Landscape - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

In an old master's landscape
trees take root beneath the oil paint,
the path clearly leads somewhere,
a dignified blade of grass replaces the signature,
it's a credible five o'clock in the afternoon,
a gently but firmly stopped May,
so I too have stopped off––yes, dear,
I am that maiden beneath the ash tree.

Look how far away I've moved from you,
how white is my bonnet, how yellow my skirt,
how firmly I clutch my basket so I won't fall out of the painting,
how I parade in another's fate
and take a rest from living mysteries.

Even if you called, I would not hear,
and even if I heard, I would not turn,
and even if I made that impossible move,
your face would seem strange to me.

I know the world within a six-mile radius.
I know the herbs and spells for every ailment.
God still looks down on the top of my head.
I still pray for an unsudden death.
War is a punishment, and peace a reward.
Embarrassing dreams come from Satan.
My soul is as plain as the pit of a plum.

I don't know the game of hearts.
I don't know the nakedness of the father of my children.
I don't suspect the Song of Songs
of a complex, inked-up first draft.
What I want to say, is in complete sentences.
I don't use despair, for it is not mine,
but only entrusted me for safekeeping.

Even if you barred my path
even if you looked into my eyes,
I would pass you by on the razor's edge of the abyss.

To the right is my house, which I know my around,
along with its stairs and the passageway in,
where unpainted stories unfold:
the cat leaps onto a bench,
the sun falls onto a tin pitcher,
and a gaunt man sits at the table
repairing a clock.

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