In the years immediately preceding Wisława Szymborska‘s surprising Nobel Prize for Literature win, I devoured her work (what I could get my hands on). I would revisit the same poems again and again, always finding something new to savor. This applied in particular to “I Am Too Near”. Recently re-reading Szymborska, it/she no longer holds the same sway over me. Is it because I am older, different and respond to things differently? Or is it that I spent so much time and energy living inside the work back then that I find it almost too familiar… wandering into an abandoned house I lived in nearly 25 years ago to find the place similar but worn with time, much like myself? Am I, in fact, too near?
“For her now in him a valley grows…”
I Am Too Near
I am too near to be dreamt of by him.
I do not fly over him, do not escape from him
under the roots of a tree. I am too near.
Not in my voice sings the fish in the net,
not from my finger rolls the ring.
I am too near. A big house is on fire
without me, calling for help. Too near
for a bell dangling from my hair to chime.
Too near to enter as a guest
before whom walls glide apart by themselves.
Never again will I die so lightly,
so much beyond my flesh, so inadvertently
as once in his dream. Too near.
I taste the sound, I see the glittering husk of this word
as I lie immobile in his embrace. He sleeps,
more accessible now to her, seen but once
a cashier of a wandering circus with one lion,
than to me, who am at his side.
For her now in him a valley grows,
russet-leaved, closed by a snowy mountain
in the bright blue air. I am too near
to fall to him from the sky. My scream
could wake him up. Poor thing
I am, limited to my shape,
I who was a birch, who was a lizard,
who would come out of my cocoons
shimmering the colors of my skins. Who possessed
the grace of disappearing from astonished eyes,
which is a wealth of wealths. I am near,
too near for him to dream of me.
I slide my arm from under the sleeper’s head
and it is numb, full of swarming pins,
on the tip of each, waiting to be counted,
the fallen angels sit.