“SZYMBORSKA” by Jack Grapes

I came home
Wednesday night from class
and Lori was ensconsed
like a caterpillar in a cocoon
on the bed, watching a movie on tv
about crazy people who fall in love
and break china.
“Szymborska died,” I said.

She reached for the remote and shut the tv off.
The room expanded into that quiet bubble we experience
when we shut off the tv.

She looked at me and said nothing.

What was there to say?

A friend dies, a poet dies, poetry lives on:
There’s nothing you can say.

It’s like turning off the tv,
and their passing
fills the space of our lives
with all that silence.
A balloon of being and nothingness,
a reduction of existence into a series
of appearances, overcoming those dualisms
that have embarrassed philosophy
and replacing them with the monism
of the phenomenon.

I put the clipboard I still had in my hand on the dresser
and began to undress. Then I got in the bed and lay beside her.
We still hadn’t spoken.

Szymborska was gone.

We just lay there for a bit, in the silence,
not sure who would break it,
not sure whose turn it was
to turn the moment
back into words.
You need a poet at a time like this,
and the poet was gone.

There was a small crack in the ceiling.
And a tiny cobweb in the corner.
Later, Lori’d probably get on a chair and with a tissue
wipe it away. That was her job, getting
those little tiny spider webs
gone before they engulfed the house,
our lives, the planet. Don’t
worry, dear reader, she’s on the job.
You will be safe.

“What’s my job?” asks Lori when she’s nagging me.
And I repeat the mantra: “To take care of me.”

But for now, with Szymborksa’s passing
still blooming into silence,
the cobweb would have to wait,
the crack would just have to bide its time.

Such a long silence.

Then I thought, fuck it.
I reached for the remote, and clicked the tv back on.

There went a teacup.
Crash.
There went another.
Crash.
It was good to get back
to a semblance of the world,
all that love and passion,
all those broken teacups.

Jack Grapes

(Author/Poet/Method Writing Teacher)

Photo by L. K. Thayer

© 2012

Wislawa Szymborska – 1923-2012 – R.I.P.

A Few Words on the Soul

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

Born in Poland, Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Her latest book, Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, was published by W. W. Norton & Co. in May, 2001. (2001)