Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, REALITY REQUIRES, by WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA



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REALITY REQUIRES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Reality requires / that we speak of these things: / life rolls on
Subject(s): Reality


Reality requires
that we speak of these things:
life rolls on,
near Cannae, and Borodino,
in Kosovo, Guernica.

A petrol station stands
on a little Jericho square:
in the shadow of Bila Hora
are freshly painted benches.
Letters circulate
between Pearl Harbour and Hastings;
under a lion's stone eye at Cheronea
a furniture van draws up:
and an atmospheric front approaches
the orchards of blown blossom near Verdun.

There is so much of Everything—
a veiledness, of Nothing.
Music floats out
from yachts moored at Actium,
and couples dance on the sunny decks.

Happenings keep happening—
layers upon layers:
on that rubble of stones,
there's an ice-cream stall,
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima stood
Hiroshima is again,
busy, producing
all manner of everyday things.

This bleak world has its charm—
mornings break,
worth getting up for.

On the fields of Maciejowice,
the grass is green,
misted—as grass should be—
with transparent dew.

Perhaps there are only ever battlefields:
some still remembered,
some already forgotten—
forests of birch, or cedar,
snow, sand, iridescent marshes;
and black ravines of disaster,
where today—in sudden need—
one squats down behind a bush.

What moral emerges?—none, probably.
The truth is this: blood, rapidly drying,
and always the odd river, cloud-picture.

On tragic mountain passes,
the wind whisks a hat off,
and—there's no helping it—
the sight makes us laugh.


First Published in The Kenyon Review, Volume 23 #2 (Spring 2001).
www.kenyonreview.org/roth






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