not a pretty picture. not a good. not a bad. picture. but an argument.

Monday, October 28, 2013

not political

(the lake which is not Birch Lake, September 18, 2013)

Children of the Epoch by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Austin Flint)

We are the children of the epoch.
The epoch is political.

All my daily and nightly affairs,
all your daily and nightly affairs,
are political affairs.

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin has a political hue,
and your eyes a political aspect.
What you say resounds,
what you don't say is also
politically significant.

Even coming through the rye,
you walk with political steps
on political ground.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and in the sky there's a moon
that's no longer moonlike.

To be or not to be, that is a question.
Oh darling, what a question, give a suggestion.
A political question.

You don't have to be human
to acquire a political meaning.
It's enough to be petroleum,
cattle fodder, raw material,
or just a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months.

In the meantime, people were killed.
Animals died,
houses burned,
fields grew wild,
as in distant
and less political epochs.

(*In Austin Flint's translation the third stanza reads:

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin a political tone,
your eyes a political color.

I have opted to include a partial translation here by Walter Whipple to my own preference, not necessarily reflecting the original.)