Happy New Year!
Start the year with
a picture and poem.
Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883),
1862-63, oil on canvas,
unframed: 37 5/16 x 44 3/4 in. (94.7 x 113.7 cm)
framed: 46 7/8 x 54 5/16 in. (119 x 138 cm)
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
A Great Number
by Wislawa Szymborska
Four billion people on this earth of ours,
but my imagination is unchanged.
It does not do well with great numbers.
It is still moved by what is individual.
Flitting through darkness like a flashing beam,
it picks out only the faces that are nearest,
meanwhile the rest are lost to blind oversight,
non-thought and non-regret.
Dante himself could not have prevented that.
And what if one is not?
Even with all the muses at my back.
Non omnis moriar - a worriment that's premature.
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It was never enough, now more than ever.
Choosing I reject, there is no other way,
yet that which I reject is more numerous,
more dense, more clamorous then ever before.
At the cost of losses indescribable - a little poem, a sigh.
To this thunderous Calling I reply in a whisper.
How much I pass over in silence, I will not say.
A mouse at the foot of the maternal mountain.
Life lasts but a few scratches of the claw in the sand.
My dreams - even they are not, as is proper, inhabited.
There's more in them of solitude than crowds and tumult.
Someone long dead may drop by for a moment.
The handle is moved by a lone hand.
The empty house is crowded round with annexes of echoes.
I run from the doorstep down into the tranquil
valley that seems to be no one's, already anachronistic.
Where this space within me comes from still -
that I do not know.
Addendum: Wislawa Szymborska (born July 2, 1923) died February 1, 2012 at her home in Krakow, Poland. She received the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.