April 21, 2014 (Patriots Day)


I’m anxious to see who won the Boston marathon in about an hour or so here. I stumbled on today’s piece, which is an essay, rather haphazardly–The Huffington Post had a short article featuring 5 poets discussing their choice for most beautiful word in the English language. I’d never heard of a single one of the poets! But I was most drawn to the answer of Idra Novey, a faculty member at Princeton and respected translator, who chose “ever,” in part because it can mean once, it can mean always, it can speak to a shared history, and it’s often emphatic and emotional. “It’s a reason for writing poetry.” So I looked to Ms. Novey’s bio, but I couldn’t find much, not even a birth date (her publishing history would peg her as youngish). As I browsed, though, I found this short essay,
which can serve as our own commemoration of last year’s tragedy at the Boston marathon. It’s not much longer than some of the poems we run, so I encourage you to take a look. There’s a certain naivete to the first paragraph, which strikes me as even more intense just one year out from its writing.
 … and just for fun I’ll print below the poem and translation credits of the piece she uses as her springboard. -ed.
Any CaseIt could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
One step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was tight, but you? through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
How quickly your heart is beating in me.

[ Translated from the Polish by Grazyna Drabik and Sharon Olds ]


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