Saturday, March 10, 2018

Theatre Impressions by Wisława Szymborska

Theatre Impressions
For me the tragedy’s most important act is the sixth:
the raising of the dead from the stage’s battlegrounds,
the straightening of wigs and fancy gowns,
removing knives from stricken breasts,
taking nooses from lifeless necks,
lining up among the living
to face the audience.
The bows, both solo and ensemble—
the pale hand on the wounded heart,
the curtsies of the hapless suicide,
the bobbing of the chopped-off head.
The bows in pairs—
rage extends its arm to meekness,
the victim’s eyes smile at the torturer,
the rebel indulgently walks beside the tyrant.
Eternity trampled by the golden slipper’s toe.
Redeeming values swept aside with the swish of a
     wide-brimmed hat.
The unrepentant urge to start all over tomorrow.
Now enter, single file, the hosts who died early on,
in Acts 3 and 4, or between scenes.
The miraculous return of all those lost without a trace.
The thought that they’ve been waiting patiently offstage
without taking off their makeup
or their costumes
moves me more than all the tragedy’s tirades.
But the curtain’s fall is the most uplifting part,
the things you see before it hits the floor:
here one hand quickly reaches for a flower,
there another hand picks up a fallen sword.
Only then, one last, unseen, hand
does its duty
and grabs me by the throat.

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh


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