Tagore: Those who are near me do not know

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Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are
Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words
Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you
They who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.

    --Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).
If you know the original Bengali source of this quotation, could you please send it to me?


Carol Ann Duffy: It is the wound in Time

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It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955–), British poet laureate, on the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I.

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"The Wound in Time" by Carol Ann Duffy. Published by the Guardian, 2018. Copyright © Carol Ann Duffy. Reproduced by permission of the author c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, U.K.

Photos:

New Zealand division marching to take ship to Europe. These men fought, among other battles, at Passchendaele; hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including 2375 New Zealanders, died there. 

The morning after the first battle of Passchendaele.


Golby: Oh man this is going to suck

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My parents are dead and I’m starting to get to the age where my friends’ parents are dying, too, and I feel I should know what to say to them. And I never really do: instances of grief, I have found, are unique, two never coming in the same shape, and they can be piercing and hard-edged and they can be like passing through deep, dark treacle or they can be like a long, slow-passing cloud. There is no one single catch-all solution to dealing with the worst life has to throw at you. 
 
But what I do always say is: oh man, this is going to suck. 
 
...And I say: at one point you are going to become keenly aware that everyone is judging you for the way you outwardly behave when someone close to you dies, and I need to tell you that that is a nonsense. You are going to feel a dirty little feeling of guilt. If there’s a long illness involved, there might be this horrible, metallic-tasting feeling of relief, one too hard and real for you to admit to yourself is there. You will do weird things and behave weirdly and not even know it is happening.
 

Arcos: The dead are all on the same side

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They float in the wind
on the same side,
the widows' veils—

and the mingled sobs
of a thousand sorrows
all flow into
the same river.
Crowded against each other,
the dead with no hate, with no flags,
their hair matted with blood—
the dead are all on the same side.

In the same clay, where the world that is dying
endlessly melds with the world that begins,
the brotherly dead, their foreheads together,
now atone for the same defeat.

Pummel each other, divided children!
Tear Humanity apart
into pointless shreds of territory—
the dead are all on the same side.

For under the earth there is only one country
and only one hope
just as there is, for the Universe,
only one war and one victory.

René Arcos (1880–1959), "Les Morts"

Le vent fait flotter
Du même côté
Les voiles des veuves

Et les pleurs mêlés
Des mille douleurs
Vont au même fleuve.
Serrés les uns contre les autres
Les morts sans haine et sans drapeau,
Cheveux plaqués de sang caillé,
Les morts sont tous d’un seul côté.

Dans l’argile unique où s’allie sans fin
Au monde qui meurt celui qui commence
Les morts fraternels tempe contre tempe
Expient aujourd’hui la même défaite.

Heurtez-vous, ô fils divisés !
Et déchirez l’Humanité
En vains lambeaux de territoires,
Les morts sont tous d’un seul côté.

Car sous la terre il n’y a plus
Qu’une patrie et qu’un espoir
Comme il n’y a pour l’Univers
Qu’un combat et qu’une victoire.


Larkin: Most things may never happen: this one will

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I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

Kurt Deiner Pixabay pixlr blur

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin (1922–1985), "Aubade" from Collected Poems (Faber and Faber, 1988/2003, ed. Anthony Thwaite). Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by kind permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.


Erich Maria Remarque: on the horror of endless war

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"Germany ought to be empty soon," says Kat.

We have given up hope that some day an end may come. We never think so far...

In one attack our Company Commander, Bertinck, falls. He was one of those superb front-line officers who are foremost in every hot place. He was with us for two years without being wounded, so that something had to happen in the end....

Bertinck has a chest wound. After a while a fragment smashes away his chin, and the same fragment has sufficient force to tear open Leer's hip. Leer groans as he supports himself on his arm, he bleeds quickly, no one can help him. Like an emptying tube, after a couple of minutes he collapses.

What use is it to him now that he was such a good mathematician at school.

Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970), All Quiet on the Western Front, ch. 11, translated here by A.W. Wheen. Both men were soldiers in World War I. 

"Deutschland muß bald leer sein" sagt Kat.

Wir sind ohne Hoffnung, daß einmal ein Ende sein könnte. Wir denken überhaupt nicht so weit....

Bei einem Angriff fällt unser Kompanieführer Bertinck. Er war einer dieser prachtvollen Frontoffiziere, die in jeder brenzligen Situation vorne sind. Seit zwei Jahren war er bei uns, ohne daß er verwundet wurde, da mußte ja endlich etwas passieren....

Bertinck hat einen Brustschuß. Nach einer Weile schmettert ihm ein Splitter das Kinn weg. Der gleiche Splitter hat noch die Kraft, Leer die Hüfte aufzureißen. Leer stöhnt und stemmt sich auf die Arme, er verblutet rasch, niemand kann ihm helfen. Wie ein leerlaufender Schlauch sackt er nach ein paar Minuten zusammen. Was nützt es ihm nun, daß er in der Schule ein so guter Mathematiker war.

 


Michelle Leatherby: Please endorse me on LinkedIn for "Good at Grieving"

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During my time at your company, I have grown tremendously. Recently, I developed perhaps my greatest professional strength: grieving in a way that isn’t super inconvenient to others. When I returned to work after The Event (see how I used “The Event” so I didn’t force you to think about my trauma in detail?), my new skillset blossomed. It is with the utmost humility that I request your endorsement of the followings skills:

Got dressed.

Returned after just 3 bereavement and 2 personal days despite everyone in my family taking more time and feeling like a big giant meanie mean.

Endured a pre-meeting sympathy hug.

Only cried at work twice, and when no one was looking.

Brought back The Event leftovers, but referred to them as “desserts from home” so others didn’t have to think about my misfortune.

Stopped drinking office coffee due to a constant heightened state of anxiety following The Event.

Responded “good!” when a coworker asked me how I’m doing.

Responded “good!” when a different coworker asked me how I’m doing, and then when they clarified “no, but how are you really doing?” gave them enough information to make them feel important but not enough to actually give insight into the deep, emotionally shattering anguish I experience on a daily basis.

Wore a color!

Only listened to one Bon Iver album too loud.

Ate more than a handful of almonds and less than an entire cake for lunch.

Channeled personal stress into work stress, creating the most perfect and organized Excel spreadsheet of all time.

Said “totally” in response to a coworker deeming the loss of an email attachment as “traumatic.”

Showed up.

Thanked a coworker for the flowers placed on my desk the day of The Event that were dead by the time I arrived back at work, reminding me of The Event.

Smiled and sang happy birthday to a work acquaintance despite the more-present-than-ever feeling that life is fleeting and should be spent with those whom you love most.

Bathed.

Did not throw every stapler, computer, and office chair when a coworker asked via g-chat “So, things getting back to normal now?”

Dissociated at the water cooler less than 10 times.

Pretended to relate to a manager’s bad day, which was caused by a soggy sandwich.

Refrained from divulging sad weekend plans that included wine consumed alone and The Event-related paperwork.

Breathed.

When coworkers said “I can’t imagine,” resisted responding “Well, then let me paint you a picture” and then launching into an overwrought description of my trauma.

Breathed.

Abstained from screaming in the face of every person older than the one I lost in The Event, asking why they deserve to live longer.

Breathed.

Avoided confiscating the computer of anyone who sent sympathy via email and insinuated that The Event was God’s Plan™.

Breathed.

Did not get in my car during my lunch break, turn on the ignition, crank the radio as loud as possible, scream with as much lung power as an entire high school band wind section, and drive straight into the nearest body of water.

Breathed.

Kept going.

Michelle Leatherby
on Twitter @MichelleLoserby

Thanks to McSweeney's, which published this piece on 5 October 2018


Photo credit: Canon EOS 70d at MaxPixel


Mohammed Assaf, age 12, on his mother

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Aleppo, Syria in December 2016
 

The Word Ummī— My Mother

My beloved mother.
When I go to my house, the pain of missing her
Arrives before me.

Mohammed Assaf of Syria, age 12 when he wrote this.
Mohammed lives in England now and his poem is in
England: Poems from a School (2018), edited by Kate Clanchy


Lulu von Strauss und Torney: Once

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And when I myself have long been dead,
my earth will be blossoming again,
and seeds and sickles, snow and the glory of summer
and white day and blue midnight
will pass over my beloved soil.

And there will be days just like today–
the gardens full of the scent of lilacs,
and white clouds gliding into the blue,
and young fields of silken grass-tips
and above it all an endless song of larks!

And children will be laughing at the gate
and breaking green twigs off the hedges,
and girls will be roaming arm in arm
and through the warm, still summer evening
speak of love with their soft lips!

And like today, the young day of earth
will know nothing of any yesterday,
and like today still, every summer breeze
will carry secret sweetness on its wings
from thousands of days that are forgotten!

      –Lulu von Strauß und Torney (1873-1956)

Einst

Und wenn ich selber längst gestorben bin,
wird meine Erde wieder blühen stehen,
und Saat und Sichel, Schnee und Sommerpracht
und weißer Tag und blaue Mitternacht
wird über die geliebte Scholle gehen.

Und werden Tage ganz wie heute sein:
die Gärten voll vom Dufte der Syringen,
und weiße Wolken, die im Blauen ziehn,
und junger Felder seidnes Ährengrün,
und drüberhin ein endlos Lerchensingen!

Und werden Kinder lachen vor dem Tor
und an den Hecken grüne Zweige brechen,
und werden Mädchen wandern Arm in Arm
und durch den Sommerabend still und warm
mit leisen Lippen von der Liebe sprechen!

Und wird wie heut der junge Erdentag
von keinem Gestern wissen mehr noch sagen,
und wird wie heut doch jeder Sommerwind
aus tausend Tagen, die vergessen sind,
geheime Süße auf den Flügeln tragen!