Wednesday 12 January 2011

From periphery to the centre

For a long time now, this poem has been sitting in my blog's side-bar. I was amused by the poet's ability to present a serious topic in such a lighter vein. Read the poem and tell me what you think:



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 Stainslaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Image: Internet


  1. I read it when I first saw your revamped blog and I remember wondering why it is that people all over the world in every culture are convinced that we have a soul. Altho a soul is not something you can locate in our anatomy, I remember attending a demonstration of cadaveric dissection in which our professor told us that everything that a human being possesses in body is present in this cadaver. The only thing missing, is that spark of life, the soul.

    It's nice to believe there's a part of us that exists beyond the boundaries of matter and space. That some tiny bit is eternal, unfettered, unique.

    These aren't thoughts on the poem so much as thoughts that the poem had brought forth that time. I hope you didnt mind. :)

  2. All I can say is wow! Not very good at interpreting poems but something about it has touched me. I guess I will have to read it over again meditate on it some more. Thanks for posting it

  3. I too havent seen it...

    We can count on it when we are sure of nothing!!!

    You read this author while in college?

  4. What a really interesting and thought provoking poem. As you say it's actually very serious but presented in such a way that you could almost find it funny.

    I find it moving as well and in my opinion, I find it reflects perhaps more what we feel than what is in a sense. I think we go through life so quickly and so much happens to us, good and bad that we are only aware of our souls at profound moments. And these moments are quite rare. Our soul gets lost in a way in the business of day to day life...I like the line about it liking silence because I feel that when we seek silence and peace, it is then we are closer to understanding our eternal side.

    Beautiful and thank you for sharing it!

    Hope you have a lovely day!

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  6. yeah...captured the end of my rope i find it...and on first seeing a sunrise...

  7. Nice to see a poem by Slavic origins, just like my own.;) I think I will look for the original work.;)
    Beautiful words as well...

  8. Thanks for highlighting this poem. I enjoyed reading it and it made me get more in touch with my own soul, my uniqueness and that spark that gives me life.

  9. I am really thinking about this now. Not only the poem, which i love, but the comments.

    there is something about the soul, that is more than just a spark of life.

    thank you for sharing this wonderful piece, Susan

  10. Hey, that thing about the soul...that's GOOD!

  11. The poet has strung the thoughts so beautifully, giving the poem with such a profound meaning, a hilarious touch!
    Thank you for sharing Susan.
    Our soul is all that we own. And it totally depends on us as to what or how we connect to it, and understand it.
    I believe that it is the awareness which is with us all the time, which knows, observes and interprets everything as it happens. And which in a way is dependent upon us to keep it alive,conscious and kicking :)

  12. Lovely poem Susan. Loved the last parah especially.

    We need it
    but apparently
    it needs us
    for some reason too.

    Thanks for Sharing.
    Have a nice day!!


  13. I'm far from being someone who can can comment on poetry.
    I would only say this:

    When it comes to poetry I like symmetry of form and content and this poem has none of it.
    The stanzas consist of a various number of lines, and the content resembles a list of random things which is not serious enough for a serious topic such as the soul.

  14. That is no dobt the BEST description of this we call our soul. What a great choice you've made here my dear Susan. Just amazing
    Just TAHNK YOU!



  15. A curious poem about the soul. It truly leads me to believe that how one perceives the soul is purely an individual construct. I believe my soul is always always with me; it never leaves me. If my soul left me I don't think I could make it. It's such a scary thought for me to even consider. But, that is what makes us individual and unique... our ability to see and experience things differently.

    The poem is beautiful, nevertheless. It has the "soul-searching" qualities that I can truly enjoy in writing. Thank you for bringing this poem to the center of our attention, Susan.

    Big Hugs,

  16. Susan

    My comment is similar to Nevine's. I feel the presence of my soul and my experiences here on earth is --- the treasures of the heart -- the good, the bad and the pleasure the pain and the in the only thing we get to take with us when we leave this place. Even our bodies made of things of the earth, clay, water, fire, air stay here, only lent to us for this experience.
    So what is left? my soul?
    The breathe that gave me life then will someday recall the life sustaining breathe to itself.

    Never the less -- the poem was lovely and thought provoking.

    warm hugs,

  17. Karishma:

    I am glad that you do notice! Yeah, believing in something which we haven't seen is something amazing.
    Karishma, you can write anything here. I will not mind :)


    You are welcome, Otieno.

  18. John:

    No, not while in College but while I was teaching in a residential school.


    What the poet has said is in fact an indepth deliberation strung into verse which makes easy reading. Nevertheless the style is wonderful and I am glad that you liked it.

  19. Brian:

    Many moments are indeed 'soulful' ones but is there a difference while talking of 'soul' and 'soulful'?


    I would like you to tell me whether the English translation is apt and as beautiful as the original.

  20. Myrna:

    Glad, Myrna.


    You are welcome,dear Hope :)

  21. Sukanya:



    Your counter point of you added another dimension to this post, dear DUTA. I like your outspokenness. Great to have this insight :)

  22. Dulce:

    Welcome, dear Dulce.


    The soul is definitely an individual construct. While I have some friends who strongly negate the existence of something called 'soul' some of them swear by it. At the end of it, it is our ability to see things that give importance to certain aspects of our life.

    Warm hugs back to you, dear Nevine.

  23. SM:



    Absolutely, Joanny. Glad that you liked reading this piece by Symborska.



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