Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Spread Before Me A World

University of Pennsylvania
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA

Visiting the Museum with Grandma Rosanne in 1996


Flat as the table
it’s placed on.
Nothing moves beneath it
and it seeks no outlet.
Above—my human breath
creates no stirring air
and leaves its total surface

Its plains, valleys are always green,
uplands, mountains are yellow and brown,
while seas, oceans remain a kindly blue
beside the tattered shores.

Everything here is small, near, accessible.
I can press volcanoes with my ļ¬ngertip,
stroke the poles without thick mittens,
I can with a single glance
encompass every desert
with the river lying just beside it.

A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.

In the east and west,
above and below the equator—
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.

Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered—to be or not.

I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.

By Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, 1923-2012
Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

License Plate Map by Mark Dudley

See also: In A Museum & Lot's Wife

1 comment:

  1. I like the implications of the artificial borders between countries that do not reveal the political or ideological differences between them.