Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Witness, part two

In his Nobel lecture, Czeslaw Milosz spoke about the poet’s vocation as witness:

“‘To see’ means not only to have before one’s eyes. It may mean also to preserve in memory. ‘To see and to describe’ may also mean to reconstruct in imagination. A distance achieved, thanks to the mystery of time, must not change events, landscapes, human figures into a tangle of shadows growing paler and paler. On the contrary, it can show them in full light, so that every event, every date becomes expressive and persists as an eternal reminder of human depravity and human greatness. Those who are alive receive a mandate from those who are silent forever.”

There’s a place for the poet and his testimony even at those events that have been recorded by the multitudes.


They jumped from the burning floors –
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them –
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

~ Wislawa Szymborska, b. 1923, Polish poet and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature

No comments: