The persistence of February 1st 2012

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,

luxuriously, hyper-electronically.


‘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

something important’.


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.

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