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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Among the Multitudes

(Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt, 1862-1918,
Austrian Symbolist painter)

How fortunate we are, to have been invited into the human family.


I am who I am.
A coincidence no less unthinkable
than any other.

I could have different
ancestors, after all.
I could have fluttered
from another nest
or crawled bescaled
from another tree.

Nature’s wardrobe
holds a fair
supply of costumes:
Spider, seagull, field mouse.
Each fits perfectly right off
and is dutifully worn
into shreds.

I didn’t get a choice either,
but I can’t complain.
I could have been someone
much less separate.
Someone from an anthill, shoal, or buzzing swarm,
an inch of landscape ruffled by the wind.

Someone much less fortunate,
bred for my fur
or Christmas dinner,
something swimming under a square of glass.

A tree rooted to the ground
as the fire draws near.

A grass blade trampled by a stampede
of incomprehensible events.

A shady type whose darkness
dazzled some.

What if I’d prompted only fear,
or pity?

If I’d been born
in the wrong tribe
with all roads closed before me?

Fate has been kind
to me thus far.

I might never have been given
the memory of happy moments.

My yen for comparison
might have been taken away.

I might have been myself minus amazement,
that is,
someone completely different.

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


Charlie T. said...

This poem is very thought-provoking. I sometimes like to think how different things could be just by a seemingly insignificant event-- the butterfly effect. I particularly enjoy the list of things that the narrator could have been. "Someone bred for my fur," or my personal favorite, "A tree rooted to the ground as the fire draws near." I like the idea that all of nature have some sort of deep and inherent unity. Regardless of size, "spider" or "field mouse," and even regardless on what type of organismm "tree" or "blade of grass." It reminds the reader to appreciate everything on God's earth and to remember how truly alike all things are. I also like what the poem implies about reincarnation, and who the speaker could have been.

The old gentleman... said...

And yet...

we were not offstage, as it were, waiting to be conceived into the human family. We have all of us, all of our lives, been human beings. Each of us is some one, from the start.