Friday, January 04, 2013

Poetry Friday: The End and the Beginning

I went looking for poems about peace and found this article; from the poems suggested I chose this one, by Wisława Szymborska, because it illustrates so clearly that true peace is much more than the absence of fighting.  It also reminds me of rebuilding after an earthquake; a week from tomorrow we will commemorate three years since our earthquake on January 12th, 2010.

The End and the Beginning

By Wisława Szymborska
Translated By Joanna Trzeciak

After every war someone has to clean up.
Things won’t straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

You can find more information about this poet here. And here's 2013's first Poetry Friday roundup!


Joyce Ray said...

Oh, Ruth. This is a heartbreaking poem. I am just getting to know Szymborska, so I appreciate your sharing one of her poems. "All the cameras have left for another war." How true that is, whether it's an earthquake, tsunami, tragic shooting or war. The media moves on, taking the world with it and leaving those affected to live and deal with the aftermath. It is important that we all remember. Thank you, Ruth.

Violet N. said...

Ruth, I can't imagine the courage it must take to stay positive and optimistic in your setting. As Joyce says, it's a heartbreaking poem with so many lines that ring true. Thanks for sharing it! Szymborska is a new poet to me and looks to be very worth reading more of.

Linda B said...

What a beautifully written poem of the way it goes. I've never experienced anything like you, Ruth, in the earthquake, but I remember what my step-father told as he made his way through Europe in WWII, helping to clean up after battles, helping those who needed rescuing. He never talked much, but some of what he said was "you don't want to know about this, it's too many bad things." I suspect people do want things to 'go away'. They work & give money at the beginning, but then move on, to another disaster, or ? Szymborska told this story well, didn't she? Thank you!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ruth. A friend of mine who lives in Japan (YA novelist Holly Thompson) helped with cleanup after the tsunami there. This poem reminded me of some of the pictures Holly shard, scrubbing scum and grime and gathering rubble and rubbish in the streets.

Tabatha said...

Happy New Year, Ruth :-) I've always appreciated this poem. One of my favorite quotes from Szymborska:
When asked why she had published so few poems, she said: "I have a trash can in my home."

Liz Steinglass said...

What a wonderful poem.
Thank you for sharing it.
I think I will print it and put it up by my desk.

GatheringBooks said...

Oh Ruth, there is so much power in this poem, it sent shivers down my spine. I have a dear friend who just served in Afghanistan and is astonished at how life seemed so 'normal' back home. It really is peculiar how war moves different people at different points in time and the things we choose to ignore and the things that move us. Szymborska knows her stuff like no other, she is one of my absolute favorites. It's the tiny little details embedded in codes and imageries that make this poem and her message come alive.

Steve Peterson said...

What a powerful poem. This poem rings so true, for disasters big (or even small.) Someone must do the work to rebuild, even while carrying inside a heart so heavy as to be unbearable.

I wasn't aware of the poet until now, so you've done me a huge favor. Thanks!

Mary Lee said...

Yes, peace takes lots of hard work and VISION.

Vicky said...

I was just think of you with the anniversary of the earthquake coming up. I'm going to try to send you a link to an article I just read that I thought might interest you. There are some that will continue to remember & remember.
Well not sure if that will work but it is an article about a family that lost their 19 year old daughter in the earthquake and have built an orphanage in her honor. My daughter who goes to Africa is only a year or 2 older. It is hard to let them go and yet it is what God has called them too.
Happy New Year!