Travel Elegy

Travel Elegy October 4, 2014

Wislawa Szymborska, “Travel Elegy”
from Poems New and Collected

Everything’s mine though just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

Memories come to mind like excavated statues
that have misplaced their heads.

From the town of Samokov, only rain
and more rain.

Paris from Louvre to fingernail
grows web-eyed by the moment.

Boulevard Saint-Martin some stairs
leading into a fadeout.

Only a bridge and a half
from Leningrad of the bridges.

Poor Uppsala, reduced to a splinter
of its mighty cathedral.

Sofia’s hapless dancer,
a form without a face.

Then separately, his face without eyes;
separately again, his eyes with no pupils,
and, finally, the pupils of a cat.

A Caucasian eagle soars
over the reproduction of a canyon,
the fool’s gold of the sun,
the phony stones.

Everything’s mine but just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

Inexhaustible, unembracable,
but particular to the smallest fiber,
grain of sand, drop of water—
landscapes.

I won’t retain one blade of grass
as it’s truly seen.

Salutation and farewell
in a single glance.

For surplus and absence alike,
a single motion of the neck.

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