NPR : Children of the Epoch

From Women on War:

Wislawa Szymborska (b. 1923) received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Born in Kornik, in Western Poland, where she continues to live, she was educated at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, in Polish literature and sociology. She is poetry editor of the prominent weekly journal Literary Life and has received many coveted awards for her 16 collections of poems. Szymborska is also a translator of French poetry. This poem answers all who suppose it is possible to be apolitical in precarious times.

Children of the Epoch
by Wislawa Szymborska

We are the children of the epoch.
The epoch is political.

All my daily and nightly affairs,
all your daily and nightly affairs,
are political affairs.

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin a political tone,
your eyes a political color,
What you say resounds,
what you don't say is also
politically significant.

Even coming through the rye,
you walk with political steps
on political ground.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and in the sky there's a moon
that's no longer moonlike.
To be or not to be, that is a question.
Oh darling, what a question, give a suggestion.
A political question.

You don't have to be human
to acquire a political meaning.
It's enough to be petroleum,
cattle fodder, raw material.
Or just a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months.

In the meantime, people were killed.
Animals died,
houses burned,
fields grew wild,
as in distant
and less political epochs.

Translation © 1986 by Austin Flint

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