20 April 2007

Poem - The Uses of Suffering

Mr. Cogito Reflects on Suffering
Zbigniew Herbert

All attempts to avert
the so-called cup of bitterness -
by mental effort
frenzied campaigns on behalf of stray cats
breathing exercises
religion -
let you down

you have to consent
gently bow your head
not wring your hands
use suffering mildly with moderation
like a prosthetic limb
without false shame
but without pride also

don’t brandish your stump
over other people’s heads
don’t knock your white cane
on the panes of the well-fed

drink an extract of bitter herbs
but not to the dregs
be careful to leave
a few gulps for the future

accept it
but at the same time
isolate it in yourself
and if it is possible
make from the stuff of suffering
a thing or a person

play
with it
of course
play

joke around with it
very solicitously
as with a sick child
cajoling in the end
with silly tricks
a wan
smile

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A beautiful and well-chosen poem, like the one you read tonight. Thanks so much for coming. Your remarks were perfect.

23 April, 2007 20:30  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Thanks Jodi. Let's keep in touch about doing something at apsa re: theoeryblogging. Jim

24 April, 2007 12:31  
Blogger vvoi said...

what a strange way (for me) to meet someone. the timing, i just don't get it. i am so glad to have discovered your site, even now, especially now. herbert is my absolute favorite, not because of him having been polish (his wife is actually a relative of mine), but because his acute sense of tragedy is incredibly linked to a delicate and yet wise self-distance. i wish you all best.

26 April, 2007 15:03  

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