Saturday, April 6, 2013

"People on a bridge," by Wislawa Szymborska, by Hiroshige

A strange planet with its strange people.
They yield to time but don't recognise it.
They have ways of expressing their protest.
They make pictures, like this one for instance:

At first glance, nothing special.
You see water.
You see shore.
You see a boat sailing laboriously upstream.
You see a bridge over the water and people on the bridge.
The people are visibly quickening their step,
because a downpour has just started
lashing sharply from a dark cloud.

The point is that nothing happens next.
The cloud doesn't change its colour or shape.
The rain neither intesifies nor stops.
The boat sails on motionless.
The people on the bridge
run just where they were a moment ago.
It's difficult to avoid remarking here:
this isn't by any means an innocent picture.
Here time has been stopped.
Its laws have been ignored.
It's been denied influence on developing events.
It's been insulted and spurned.

Thanks to a rebel,
a certain Hiroshige Utagawa
(a being which as it happens
has long since and quite properly passed away)
time stumbled and fell.

Maybe this was a whim of no significance,
a freak covering just a pair of galaxies,
but we should perhaps add the following:

Here it's considered proper
to regard this little picture highly,
admire it and thrill to it from age to age.

For some this isn't enough.
They even hear the pouring rain,
they feel the cool drops on necks and shoulders,
they look at the bridge and the people
as if they saw themselves there
in the self-same never-finished run
along an endless road eternally to be travelled
and believe in their impudence
that things are really thus. 

poem by Wislawa Szymborska
painting by Hiroshige Utagawa
attention by Emma J
 

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