Monday, May 18, 2015

On Death, without Exaggeration







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It can’t take a joke, 
find a star, make a bridge. 
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming, 
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow, 
it has the final word, 
which is always beside the point.

It can’t even get the things done 
that are part of its trade: 
dig a grave, 
make a coffin, 
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing, 
it does the job awkwardly, 
without system or skill. 
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs, 
but look at its countless defeats, 
missed blows, 
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn’t strong enough 
to swat a fly from the air. 
Many are the caterpillars 
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods, 
tentacles, fins, tracheae, 
nuptial plumage, and winter fur 
show that it has fallen behind 
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won’t help 
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d’etat 
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs. 
Babies’ skeletons grow. 
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves 
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent 
is himself living proof 
that it’s not.

There’s no life 
that couldn’t be immortal 
if only for a moment.

Death
always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob 
of the invisible door. 
As far as you’ve come 
can’t be undone.


–Wislawa Szymborska





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