torture is wrong

opposing torture through activism and education


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Torture by Wislawa Szymborska PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:29

by Wislawa Szymborska, translated, from the Polish, by Joanna Trzeciak 
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, as it's always been, only the earth has shrunk, and whatever happens, feels like it happens next door. Nothing has changed. Only there are more people, 
next to old transgressions, new ones have appeared 
real, alleged, momentary, none, 
but the scream, the body's response to 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 away. 
Bowled over, it falls, pulls 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. 
WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, was born in 1923 in Kornik, Poland. Her nine volumes of poetry include Wielka liczba (A Great Number) (1976), Ludzie na moscie (People on the Bridge) (1986), and Koniec i Poczatek (The End and the Beginning) (1993). Szymborska lives in Krakow, Poland. JOANNA TRZECIAK'S translations of Szymborska's poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, and Atlantic Monthly, among others. Her translation of Tomek Tryzna's novel Panna Nikt (Miss Nobody), was recently published by Doubleday.