There are times when I am mightily offended by my own unawareness of things, the abrupt revelations only underscoring my ignorance. Take for example the news of Wisława Szymborska’s death (1932 - 2012) last February 1, a Polish Nobel laureate for literature whose name I could not even pronounce well (until New York Times reveals to me it is ‘vees-WAH-vah shim-BOR-ska’).
I never knew her until that date. And what a shame I have come to know her just recently, a woman with works that I have found to be potent and affecting in spite of their seeming ease and fragility. I am both moved by embarrassment and awe. While reading one by one the articles about her all over the internet, I came upon this poem that I thought had aptly ushered my entrance to her oeuvre. The last two stanzas speak of her quiet brilliance.
A Tale Begun
The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.
Our ships are not yet back from Vinland.
We still have to get over the St. Gotthard pass.
We’ve got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw’s center,
gain access to King Harold the Butterpat
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouché.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.
We’ve run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven’t got the trucks, we haven’t got the Mings’ support.
This skinny horse won’t be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars’ captives.
We’ll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.
We don’t know who to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the prince cardinal will decree,
which names Beria’s still got inside his files.
They say Charles the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation let’s appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
pretend to be friends with the Doge
and that we’ve got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.
Time to light the fires.
Let’s send a cable to grandma in Zabierzow.
Let’s untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.
May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.
But not so far
that it sees into the future.
that one gift,
O heavenly powers.
In a few days’ time, there will be an occasion that would, if the gracious heavens are on my side, allow me a chance to show what I could present, expound what needs to be clarified. If the proceeding goes the other way around, then it would be one for the books of ignorance. I could only hope for the former, of course, with a dash of poker-facing and loads of self-assurance. Let’s just say I’d be facing a crowd, probably a very inquisitive one, and I always have an issue with that. Period.
I have been keeping this to myself since August last year, to minimize the mental drumbeating of its coming. But I guess today’s the right time. I better start looking for my full-body armor for this one.