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A Few Words On The Soul

Rating: 3.7
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.

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.

translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh


Duszę się miewa.
Nikt nie ma jej bez przerwy i na zawsze.

Dzień za dniem,rok za rokiem
może bez niej minąć.

Czasem tylko w zachwytach
i lękach dzieciństwa
zagnieżdża się na dłużej.
Czasem tylko w zdziwieniu,
że jesteśmy starzy.

Rzadko nam asystuje
podczas zajęć żmudnych,
jak przesuwanie mebli,
dźwiganie walizek,
czy przemierzanie drogi w ciasnych butach.

Przy wypełnianiu ankiet
i siekaniu mięsa
z reguły ma wychodne.

Na tysiąc naszych rozmów uczestniczy w jednej
a i to niekoniecznie, bo woli milczenie.

Kiedy ciało zaczyna nas boleć i boleć,
cichcem schodzi z dyżuru.

Jest wybredna:niechętnie widzi nas w tłumie,
mierzi ją nasza walka o byle przewagę
i terkot interesów.

Radość i smutek
to nie są dla niej dwa różne uczucia.
Tylko w ich połączeniu jest przy nas obecna.

Możemy na nią liczyć
kiedy niczego nie jesteśmy pewni,
a wszystkiego ciekawi.

Z przedmiotów materialnych
lubi zegary z wahadłem
i lustra, które pracują gorliwie,
nawet gdy nikt nie patrzy.

Nie mówi skąd przybywa
i kiedy znowu nam zniknie,
ale wyraźnie czeka na takie pytania.

Wygląda na to,
że tak jak ona nam,
również i my
jesteśmy jej na coś potrzebni.
Chinedu Dike 28 August 2019
Well expressed thoughts and feelings. An insight creation written with conviction. Thanks for sharing...........................
0 0 Reply
Tamding 30 July 2018
It was a wonderful n nice poem. I loved it.
0 0 Reply
Alice 05 July 2018
This poem is really an extraordinary one, I love to reflect over, again and again.............It really convey a message.
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M Asim Nehal 30 January 2016
This poem is really soulful and thought for mind...10
2 0 Reply
Douglas Scotney 09 September 2015
You're cruel if you kill and twice cruel if you force someone else to.
1 1 Reply
Kim Barney 09 September 2015
John Richter's comment says it all, and says it well. Thanks, John.
1 0 Reply
Kenneth Maswabi 09 September 2015
Surely one of my all time favorite piece of writing. Thank you very much.
0 0 Reply
John Richter 09 September 2015
Wow... This might come to be my favorite poem ever, and I have not previously known of Wislawa... George, this is such a good example of how poetry is defined by the reader, and not the poet... Each reader brings his own emotions into a piece, and thusly this poem glows as one of the most romantic and esoteric pieces I have ever read... The reasons are abound - but just one small example. 'It usually steps out whenever meat needs chopped...' That is a picture which speaks 10,000 words... It is one thing to purchase meat at the grocery store. It is quite another to kill it, disembowel it, remove its skin or feathers, and butcher it into edible pieces of meat. To myself and Wislawa, and most cultures around the world, that act is horrifying to the soul. From American Indians to the Jewish people of the Old Testament, the sacrifice of an animal for eating is revered as a most sacred and holy thing because of that feeling we get inside. And to add 'filling out forms' immediately brought to mind the many things we people do that can be an affront our spiritual sensibilities. The Nazi Death camps for example were run by people who must have left their souls behind in order to follow orders.... Or they did not have souls. Those citizens living in fear of the regime must have left their soul behind when reporting the whereabouts of Jews hiding or those who hid them. They saw all the horrible injustice and blood shed. The body's need for survival is something that can cause the soul to temporarily shut off, exactly as Wislawa described - and so elegantly..... Body and soul are two different things. Wislawa was very in tune with that I think...
4 0 Reply
Savita Tyagi 09 September 2015
it is with us when no one is there. It keeps on looking when no one is looking. it lends a hand when all refuse the band.
2 1 Reply
George Hill 09 September 2015
I think this poem devoud of merit.I stopped reading at line 5.
1 2 Reply

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