The End and the Beginning

I get two poems a day in my email, and this was one of today’s poems. It made me stop and smile, stop and think, stop and wish the world were different — all things poetry should do. As a native of Poland, Szymborska should know a thing or two about rebuilding after wars. I like the hope, the resolve, the muted grieving over old grievances still buried (the line about finding rusted-out arguments is one of my favorites in the poem), and she’s exactly right: It’s not photogenic to pick up the pieces, but it is absolutely necessary. May you be strengthened in your resolve to pick up the pieces, whatever they are, wherever you are.

The End and the Beginning

by Wisława  Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.
Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.
Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.
Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.
From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.
In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.
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