Out of a hundred people
those who always know better
doubting every step
– nearly all the rest,
glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
– as high as forty-nine,
because they can’t be otherwise
– four, well maybe five,
able to admire without envy
induced by fleeting youth
– sixty, give or take a few,
not to be taken lightly
– forty and four,
living in constant fear
of someone or something
capable of happiness
– twenty-something tops,
harmless singly, savage in crowds
– half at least,
when forced by circumstances
– better not to know
even ballpark figures,
wise after the fact
– just a couple more
than wise before it,
taking only things from life
(I wish I were wrong),
hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
sooner or later,
– thirty-five, which is a lot,
worthy of compassion
– a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.
~ Wislawa Szymborska ~
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.
Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.
They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.
Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.