Yesterday Wislawa Szymborska, eight-eight,
died. It is the least we can do
to return to this announcement
and contemplate whether to end
or begin the line with this verb.
Ten years ago in 2002
she published A Few Words on The Soul
noting its selective or infrequent appearances,
unwilling to help for instance in ‘uphill tasks
like moving furniture’ but always present
‘when joy and sorrow are joined’.
Yesterday was such a day.
She had recently been pondering the paradox,
If the product of two negatives is positive,
shouldn’t the product of two positives
be negative? Now it is resolved.
And all that former shuttling along the time-line
in positive and negative directions –
in the long-jump from present to past
and the hop-step-and-jump
from past to present to future
has now been left behind
by the mystery tour at right angles.
The loop-the-loop joy flight by Spitfire
at right angles into hyperpoetry
leaves, far below, a grazing goat
tethered at the number line’s midpoint.
When the cabbage moth,
flittering sideways on its air cam, settles
(quite) suddenly on a snapdragon
as if it were the hand of history
leaning heavily, if briefly,
on a warm column of the Parthenon,
it mimics the deference
to The Religions of Experiential Variety
her light and lingering lines invoke.
In Barsotti’s New Yorker cartoon
a young dog says to an older dog
‘We do all those old tricks electronically now.’
She may well have seen this
since her poems frequently appeared on those pages
looking just right and dressed for the ball.
Now her future poems are streaming
so easily, so adventurously, from stars,
‘The happiness of skating on thin ice’ –
is remarkably close to her former CV;
To select from the plethora of other things
which should be mentioned in her presence
it would be helpful to have her eagle eye.
‘Some invisibility would come in handy’:
She has it now and will undoubtedly
use it to maximum effect
summoning comet tails of ideas
auroras of special effects
sun showers of particular articulations –
now that she is able to see
as a complete and turning sphere
‘this sleepy backwater.’
If the making of poems
resembles juggling (which surely it should)
she would be well-placed now
to keep a startling number of vases in the air
each with its bouquet of flowers intact
tiger alstroemerias, blushing geraniums –
and not to spill more than a greeting of water
while managing ‘to keep on not knowing
In a beautiful poem she imagines
a poet reading his work
to a gallery of blind people.
He realises all too late that he is mentioning
a cascade of visual effects –
colours, shapes, architectural features
odd aspects of light and shade
but is touched by the forbearance
and patience of his audience
who in many cases must have difficulties
in attaching meaning to his lines –
as touched as are we by the life
of Wislawa Szymborska which is now complete
like a restored amphora. He is even more
affected when one of his audience approaches
with the book proffered wrong side out
for an invisible autograph.
And I would now always approach the waterfall
or the geyser or the jet stream
in the hope that her signature
would be imprinted on each.