by Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing has changed.
The body is painful,
it must eat, breathe air, and sleep,
it has thin skin, with blood right beneath,
it has a goodly supply of teeth and nails,
its bones are brittle, its joints extensible.
In torture, all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body trembles, as it trembled
before and after the founding of Rome,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Torture is, the way it's always been, only the earth has shrunk,
and whatever happens, feels like it's happening next door.

Nothing has changed.
Only there are more people,
and next to old transgressions, new ones have appeared,
real, alleged, momentary, none,
but the scream, the body's answer for them --
was, is, and always will be the scream of innocence,
in accord with the age-old scale and register.

Nothing has changed.
Except maybe manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the gesture of arms shielding the head
has remained the same.
The body writhes, struggles, and tries to break free.
Bowled over, it falls, draws in its knees,
bruises, swells, drools, and bleeds.

Nothing has changed.
Except for the courses of rivers,
the contours of forests, seashores, deserts, and icebergs.
Among these landscapes the poor soul winds,
vanishes, returns, approaches, recedes.
A stranger to itself, evasive,
at one moment sure, the next unsure of its existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place to go.

(From Miracle Fair. Trans. from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak.)

Cross-posted at The Middle of Nowhere


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