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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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National Poetry Month No. 3: Wisława Szymborska - Theatre Impressions [20110421|10:07]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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This one is dedicated to [personal profile] recessional.

Wisława Szymborska - Theatre Impressions (from Could Have, translated from the original Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

For me the tragedy's most important act is the sixth:
the raising of the dead from the stage's battlegrounds
the straightening of wigs and fancy gowns
removing knives from stricken breasts,
taking nooses from lifeless necks,
lining up among the living
to face the audience.

The bows, both solo and ensemble -
the pale hand on the wounded heart,
the curtseys of the hapless suicide,
the bobbing of the chopped-off head.

The bows in pairs -
rage extends its arm to meekness,
the victim's eyes smile at the torturer,
the rebel indulgently walks besides the tyrant.

Eternity trampled by the golden slipper's toe.
Redeeming values swept aside with the swish of a wide-brimmed hat.
The unrepentant urge to start all over tomorrow.

Now enter, single file, the hosts who died early on,
in Acts 3 and 4, or between scenes.

The miraculous return of all those lost without a trace.
The thought that they've been waiting patiently offstage
without taking off their makeup
or their costumes
moves me more than all the tragedy's tirades.

But the curtain's fall is the most uplifting part,
the things you see before it hits the floor:
here one hand quickly reaches for a flower,
there another hand picks up a fallen sword.
Only then one last, unseen hand
does its duty
and grabs me by the throat.


This poem captures the feeling I get when I'm on the brink of finishing the absorption of a new piece of creative work, whatever the medium. When I encounter a piece of music, a novel, a play, a film or a television show, I am completely engrossed in that world. I am not good at ironic detachment. My mental world becomes my physical one, and the point of release from that entwining disorients me.

When I was a child, I found that moment even more shocking as I experienced it frequently on a daily basis. My internal world was so real to me that I often couldn't determine if I'd spoken aloud or simply thought something, leading to confusing conversations with peers and adults. My dreams were so vivid that the recurring players in them seemed as real as my friends at early school.

I can decouple my internal and the external worlds with much greater facility now, but I struggled with it well into adulthood. I have to be cautious about the amount and type of media I consume, because experiencing them is just as immersive, and leaving them is just as startlingly moving, as this poem implies.


[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2011-04-21 14:02 (UTC)
You have lovely penmanship!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-04-22 16:49 (UTC)
Thank you. It's also very small. I have trouble writing in large letters.

I don't know why I write my a's like a typewriter!
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[User Picture]From: victorine
2011-04-21 22:57 (UTC)
As a child and even into my teens, I would steal my mother's hostorical romance novels and read them straight through til finished. I loved these worlds of fantasy- bright cheeked heroines riding through English moors, kidnapped pioneers becoming Comanche warriors. I lived many lives, and still have memories of those personas.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-04-22 16:51 (UTC)
Oh, fantastic. Did you ever read Georgette Heyer? returntosender sent me some of her books before I was even thinking of moving to England, and I fell in love with them.
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[User Picture]From: pax_athena
2011-04-22 18:30 (UTC)
I hardly ever like poetry, but this one is both beautiful and true. It made me want to pick a book by Szymborska. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-04-24 06:16 (UTC)
You're welcome! This poem was in a stellar collection called View with a Grain of Sand. She writes the occasional poem about science, too.
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