Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON DEATH, WITHOUT EXAGGERATION, by WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA

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ON DEATH, WITHOUT EXAGGERATION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It can't tell a joke
Last Line: As if it were just learning on each of us
Subject(s): Death

It can't tell a joke
from a star, from a bridge,
from weaving, from mining, from farming,
from shipbuilding, or baking.

When we're discussing our future plans
it's got to get in the final word,
off the topic.

It doesn't even know the things
directly tied to its trade:
digging graves,
assembling coffins,
cleaning up after itself.

So busy killing
it's doing it badly,
without system or skill.
As if it were just learning on each of us.

Triumphs aside
how about the defeats,
the missed blows
and second tries.

At times it lacks the strength
to swat a fly out of thin air.
To many a caterpillar
it's lost a crawling race.

These bulbs, pods,
feelers, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage and winter fur
all testify to a backlog
in its slothful work.

Ill will does not suffice
and even our help during wars and coups d'etat
is too little so far.

Hearts are pounding in eggs.
The skeletons of infants are growing.
Seeds are sprouting their first two leaves,
and often even tall trees on the horizon.

Whoever insists that it is omnipotent
is himself living proof
that omnipotent it's not.

There is no life which
couldn't be immortal,
if only for a split second.

always arrives that split second late.

In vain it rattles the knob
of the invisible door.
However much one has gotten done,
that much it cannot take away.

Copyright © Leonard Kress.

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