Guest poem sent in by Lakshmi Jagad
(Poem #1911) On Death, without Exaggeration
It can't take a joke, find a star, make a bridge. It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming, building ships, or baking cakes. In our planning for tomorrow, it has the final word, which is always beside the point. It can't even get the things done that are part of its trade: dig a grave, make a coffin, clean up after itself. Preoccupied with killing, it does the job awkwardly, without system or skill. As though each of us were its first kill. Oh, it has its triumphs, but look at its countless defeats, missed blows, and repeat attempts! Sometimes it isn't strong enough to swat a fly from the air. Many are the caterpillars that have outcrawled it. All those bulbs, pods, tentacles, fins, tracheae, nuptial plumage, and winter fur show that it has fallen behind with its halfhearted work. Ill will won't help and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat is so far not enough. Hearts beat inside eggs. Babies' skeletons grow. Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves and sometimes even tall trees fall away. Whoever claims that it's omnipotent is himself living proof that it's not. There's no life that couldn't be immortal if only for a moment. Death always arrives by that very moment too late. In vain it tugs at the knob of the invisible door. As far as you've come can't be undone.
One of my blog friends lost one of her grandparents and posted this poem on her blog. This is a lovely poem indeed with none of the morbidity usually associated with death. There are some cute images (I can imagine a caterpillar furiously crawling away as a huge thud narrowly misses stomping it to death!), some comic instances (Imagine Dark Death desperately trying to swat a fly!) and there are awe-inspiring lines as well, about how Death defies all logic by felling giant trees and leaving babies untouched. Yes, this is one more of those mysteries we learn to live with... My favourite lines are 'There's no life that couldn't be immortal if only for a moment'. Makes me feel as if we are immortal every moment and if we could learn to treat each moment as a lifetime, how different our lives would be! To borrow from a line of a song in one of the popular Hindi films, 'Aane waala pal jaane waala hain, Ho sake to is mein zindagi bitaa do, Pal jo yeh jaane waala hain.. (The moment that is to arrive will soon depart, If you can, lead your entire life in that moment, this moment will soon depart as well) Lakshmi [Links] Wislawa Szymborska (1923-), Polish poet, essayist and translator. Nobel laureate (Literature, 1996) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wis%C5%82awa_Szymborska