Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Holothurians and Autotomy


In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two.
It abandons one self to a hungry world
and with the other self it flees.

It violently divides into doom and salvation,
retribution and reward, what has been and what will be.

An abyss appears in the middle of its body
between what instantly becomes two foreign shores.

Life on one shore, death on the other.
Here hope and there despair.

If there are scales, the pans don't move.
If there is justice, this is it.

To die just as required, without excess.
To grow back just what's needed from what's left.

We, too, can divide ourselves, it's true.
But only into flesh and a broken whisper.
Into flesh and poetry.

The throat on one side, laughter on the other,
quiet, quickly dying out.

Here the heavy heart, there, non omnis moriar--
just three little words, like a flight's three feathers.

The abyss doesn't divide us.
The abyss surrounds us.

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)

  1. 1.
    the casting off of a part of the body (e.g., the tail of a lizard) by an animal under threat.


  1. 1.
    a sea cucumber.


  1. Vocabulary lesson! I'm curious -- was this originally written in English, or is it a translation?

    1. Steve, this is a translation -- Clare Kavanagh.

  2. "The abyss doesn't divide us.
    The abyss surrounds us."
    That one I feel viscerally these days.

  3. Damn. So many of your posts leave my head swirling and my dumb brain unable to fashion a coherent comment. I'm embarrassed to admit how many comments I've started to your posts, only to delete them because they felt unworthy.
    I read this one twice and I still struggle to choose words to thank you for the master class in poetry, words and life.

  4. Wow.

    "We, too, can divide ourselves, it's true.
    But only into flesh and a broken whisper.
    Into flesh and poetry."

  5. Hi, I've been around for awhile. I did not know that I can be influenced this much by a poem. I think I must re-read the whole blog. Not complaining. I like your blog very much.



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