Under One Small Star

Forget the mother of all bombs and the father of all mankind – here is the ultimate parent of all apologies.

Just look at this great list as the poet slyly moves from the serious to the playful, from the abstract to the mundane, from the burden to the lightweight.  It’s an insistence on going on living and enjoying small pleasures in spite the crushing weight of the world that threatens to squeeze every joy from life by demanding unremitting responsibility. She offers apologies for daily pleasures and asks forgiveness for being concerned about the small things when the world if full of major miseries and dramas.

The world is vast, our lives are small. Sometimes there is nothing you can do.

I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.

It’s the weight and wideness of worldly woes and needs versus the smallness, pleasures, trivialities and necessities of daily life:  Distant wars versus a bunch of flowers; Open wounds versus a pricked finger; Deserts versus a spoonful of water. My apologies. Forgive me. Pardon me. Bear with me. I’m sorry.

I don’t think it means indifference though. Do you?

Under One Small Star

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.
Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.
Dignity, please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.
Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man.
I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

by Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Karen McDonald (b.1976)

Railroad Waiting Room (1954) by Raphael Soyer (1899-1987)

Edouard Vuillard
Sunlit Interior

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