Wednesday, May 14, 2008

659. Stage Fright - Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska - Stage Fright
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Poets and writers,
or so it is said,
so poets aren't writers, then what are they––

Poets are poetry, writers are prose––
Prose can have anything, even poetry,
but poetry can have only poetry––

According to the poster announcing it
with a capital P in art nouveau filigree
written into the strings of a winged lyre,
I should have descended, not walked in––

And wouldn't it be better barefoot,
than in these cheap shoes
clomping, squeaking,
an awkward substitute for an angel––

If only this dress were longer, trailed more,
and the poems pulled not out of the purse, but thin air,
all done for effect, a fest, a bell-ringing day,
ding to dong
a b, a b, b a––

And on the platform already lurks a séance
table, sort of, on gilded legs
and on the table a lone candle smolders––

Which means
I will have to read by candlelight
what I've written by common bulb
tap tap tap on the typewriter––

Not worried ahead of time
whether it's poetry
or what kind of poetry––

Is it the kind where prose is inappropriate––
or the kind that's appropriate in prose––

And what is the difference
visible only in half-darkness
against the crimson curtain
with purple fringe?