Thursday, September 26, 2013

Light through cloud

Looking south, there are almost always clouds over Pickerel Lake, which is about a mile away and slightly downhill. These abundant clouds come in striking variety. Sometimes they are ominous, sometimes bright and fluffy. My eyes are always on the skies through the big windows.

Here is a poem by Adam Zagajewski from Unseen Hand, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2009.

Vita Contemplativa

It may already be September. I drank tasteless coffee
in a cafe garden in Museumsinsel
and thought about Berlin, its dark waters.
These black buildings have seen much.
But peace reigns in Europe, diplomats doze,
the sun is pale, summer dies serenely,
spiders weave its shining shroud, the dry leaves
of plane trees write memoirs of their youth.

So this is the vita contemplativa.
The Pergamon's dark walls, white sculptures inside.
A bust of Greek loveliness. So this is it.
An altar before which no one prays.
So this is the vita contemplativa.
Happiness. A moment without an hour, in the words
of the poet killed in Lublin by a bomb. So this is it.
And what if, in this or another city, the vita activa
burst forth once more, What would Artemis,
fourth century B.C.E. do? Narcissus? Hermes?

Pergamon faces watch me with envy
---I still make mistakes, they can't.
Comparing day and night, so this is it.
Dream with waking, world and mind. Joy.
Composure, focus. the heart's levitation.
Bright thought smolder in dark walls.
So this is it. What we do not know.
We live in the abyss. In dark waters. In brightness.

                         --Adam Zagajewski, translated by Claire Cavanaugh, pp. 8-9.

I had decided on this poem (because of September; because of the spiders; because somehow it suited my mood) so now I have just looked up what poet died in the bombing of Lublin, to put in a link. It was the Polish poet, Jozef Czechowicz.  And found out more than that. Because after the bombing of the Lublin airfield in early September, 1939, the Nazis turned the airfield into one of their death camps.

This shows the perils in writing a blog post that is not completely researched and thought out before one starts. Sigh. But I have learned a lot, and perhaps how not to be so hasty or in a rush. Museumsinsel: here's one more thing I learned. 

Germany. Europe. Poland. Art. Mythology, and the human in myth. Another day tomorrow. I am thinking to find something somewhat less bleak. I have to admit though, that for people of my generation and the generation just before, that thoughts about World War II, and ideas related to those thoughts are always present with us. It is how we learned to think about the world.

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