THE END AND THE BEGINNING: A POEM BY SZYMBORSKA

The End and the Beginning

After every war someone has to clean up.

Things won’t straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble to the sides of the road,

So the corpse-laden wagons can pass.

Someone has to get mired in scum and ashes, sofa springs, splintered glass, and bloody rags.
Someone must drag in a girder to prop up a wall,

Someone must glaze a window, rehang a door.
Photogenic it’s not, and takes years.

All the cameras have left for another war.
Again we’ll need bridges and new railway stations.

Sleeves will go ragged from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand, still recalls how it was.

Someone listens and nods with unsevered head.

Yet others milling about already find it dull.

From behind the bush sometimes someone still unearths rust-eaten arguments

and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew what was going on here must give way to those who know little.

And less than little.


And finally as little as nothing.

.


In the grass which has overgrown reasons and causes, someone must be stretched out

blade of grass in his mouth gazing at the clouds.

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