A Few Words on the Soul

A Few Words on the Soulby Wislawa Szymborska 

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

 

DUSZA

Duszę się miewa.
Nikt nie ma jej bez przerwy i na zawsze.

Dzień za dniem,rok za rokiem
może bez niej minąć.

Czasem tylko w zachwytach
i lękach dzieciństwa
zagnieżdża się na dłużej.
Czasem tylko w zdziwieniu,
że jesteśmy starzy.

Rzadko nam asystuje
podczas zajęć żmudnych,
jak przesuwanie mebli,
dźwiganie walizek,
czy przemierzanie drogi w ciasnych butach.

Przy wypełnianiu ankiet
i siekaniu mięsa
z reguły ma wychodne.

Na tysiąc naszych rozmów uczestniczy w jednej
a i to niekoniecznie, bo woli milczenie.

Kiedy ciało zaczyna nas boleć i boleć,
cichcem schodzi z dyżuru.

Jest wybredna:niechętnie widzi nas w tłumie,
mierzi ją nasza walka o byle przewagę
i terkot interesów.

Radość i smutek
to nie są dla niej dwa różne uczucia.
Tylko w ich połączeniu jest przy nas obecna.

Możemy na nią liczyć
kiedy niczego nie jesteśmy pewni,
a wszystkiego ciekawi.

Z przedmiotów materialnych
lubi zegary z wahadłem
i lustra, które pracują gorliwie,
nawet gdy nikt nie patrzy.

Nie mówi skąd przybywa
i kiedy znowu nam zniknie,
ale wyraźnie czeka na takie pytania.

Wygląda na to,
że tak jak ona nam,
również i my
jesteśmy jej na coś potrzebni.

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Film: Blue is the Warmest Color

Last night I took it upon myself to become a little more cultured in some of the movies that people have been hyping about this past year.  I ventured aimlessly into the foregin film section on my list and chose, without thinking of the consequences, Blue is the Warmest Color.

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and starring the two fantastic actors Lea Seydoux and Adele Excarchopoulos, this movie reminded me that cinematography is an artistic medium that can define or cross the lines between acting and being, and telling and experiencing.

The story centers primarily around Adele who is still in what we would call “high school,” living in the northern city of Lille, France.  Faced with growing up and finding her footing, Adele explores her strengths and weaknesses through sexual encounters, love, and loss.  Pressured to have sex by her girlfriends, Adele tries to have a relationship with a boy.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel very fulfilled or complete after they have sex.

She then meets Emma, a blue-haired art student, and they instantly feel a strong attraction to one another.  They end up in a relationship, with Adele becoming a teacher and Emma, a burgeoning artist.  Even though both love one another, their lives are very diferent.  Emma’s circle of friends are lofty and intellectual, which makes Adele feel uncomfortable.

In the end, Adele, who feels neglected, has an affair with a male colleague from work.  Emma finds out and violently kicks Adele out of her house.  In a scene that is just as passionate as when they “make love,” Adele is cast out onto the street in a fit of moaning anguish.  The two meet again, once at a cafe and one last time at Emma’s art show.  Even though Adele is still in love with Emma, she leaves the art show and walks off into the distance with an unknown future in front of her.

Adele and Emma at an LGBTQ demonstration –Blue is the Warmest Color–
Adele leaving Emma’s art show –Blue is the Warmest Color–

I am aware that the three sex scenes are probably what make this movie most controversial in general conversation and glamour gossip.  However, I’d like to give my own impression of the film, but also examine some of its qualities that make it resonate with me.

To be honest, I think that this film is amazing.  The prowess of work shown by the actors and the directors lifts the stereotypes of an indie foreign film to demonstrate how a medium, that often gets trivialized into wowing audiences, can explore boundaries and provoke thoughts that seek to parallel the intellectual glory of the classics.

To the praise of some and the horror of others, this film has been named one of the first great classic love stories of the 21st century.  I understand that not everyone is comfortable with the portrayal of lesbian affection.  However, it is important to note that Adele never specifies what her sexual orientation is.  Emma is more comfortable with herself, and that can be seen in her family dynamic as well as her blue hair at the beginning of the film.  In fact, both women pointedly avoid labelling themselves.  In this way, Adele’s character is non-aligned in many aspects because, starting as a young girl, this is a story of her coming-of-age by finding out what she loves and what makes her happy.  Otherwise known as a bildungsroman, even Emma, who is slightly older than Adele, shows signs of development as the film progresses (i.e. stops dyeing her hair blue).

This is a point of criticism that Kechiche, the director, faced from the LGBTQ community and Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel on which the film is based.  In her graphic novel, Blue Angel (also known as Le bleu est une couleur chaude), the two women are openly lesbian.  Maroh spoke against the fact that the film was missing anyone who was actually a lesbian.  I guess it depends on what essence of truth one is aiming for?

Some qualities that really made an impression on me were the contemporary setting of the story and the realness of Adele’s interaction with her environment.
Taking place in 21st century France, Adele and Emma’s love story is caught up in a society going through change.  One scene takes place at a gay pride protest in which the audience and Adele get to see the complexity that goes beyond the notion of being gay or straight.

 Although there is criticism that Kechiche made the film and his audience see Adele and Emma through a “male gaze,” I’d like to give some credit to the male director for developing Adele’s character in a real and intense way.  Adele starts as a teenager who is taking French Literature because she loves it and doesn’t know what else to do.  Even though Emma begins to push her to become more lofty minded, I think Adele already is.  At the beginning of the film, she is explaining to her boyfriend the reasons she loves literature and the freedom to interpret it.

Contrasting that with the scene when Emma’s friends are speaking loudly about Klimt, Sartre, philosphy, and the female orgasm, Adele does not take part in the conversation.  Part of this is because she feels out of place, but I also would like to believe that her ideas and inspiration are forming themselves without the posthumous idealogical greats guiding her every step.  I guess my attraction to this movie is the loud statement it makes about the complexity of sexuality and the principal character who grows into her own power that I believe she has always had since the beginning.

So I wouldn’t reccommend this movie to anyone personally, but, if you can see yourself watching a three hour movie about love, sex, and coming-of-age without being immature, then I would encourage you to watch Kechiche’s movie and see how you interpret and react to some of the issues I discussed here and even some that I missed.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo

Hannes Lochner, South Africa

“Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo” by John Ciardi

The morning that the world began
The Lion growled at Man.

And I suspect the Lion might
(If he’d been closer) tried a bite.

I think that’s as it ought to be
And not as it was taught to me.

I think the Lion has a right
To growl a growl and bite a bite.

And if the Lion bothered Adam,
He should have growled right back at ‘im.

The to treat a Lion right
Is growl for growl and bite for bite.

True, the Lion is better fit
For biting than for being bit.

But if you look him in the eye
You’ll find the Lion’s rather shy.

He really wants someone to pet him.
The trouble is: his teeth won’t let him.

He has a heart of gold beneath
But the Lion just can’t trust his teeth.

Catalogue

“Catalogue” by Rosalie Moore

Cats sleep fat and walk thin.
Cats, when they sleep, slump;
When they wake, stretch and begin
Over, pulling their ribs in.
Cats walk thin.

Cats wait in a lump,
Jump in a streak.
Cats, when they jump, are sleek
As a grape slipping its skin–
They have technique.
Oh, cats don’t creak.
They sneak.

Cats sleep fat.
They spread out comfort underneath them
Like a good mat,
As if they picked the place
And then sat;
You walk around one
As if he were the City Hall
After that.

If male,
A cat is apt to sing on a major scale;
This concert is for everybody, this
Is wholesale.
For a baton, he wields a tail.

(He is also found,
When happy, to resound
With an enclosed and private sound.)

A cat condenses.
He pulls in his tail to go under bridges,
And himself to go under fences.
Cats fit
In any size box or kit,
And if a large pumpkin grew under one,
He could arch over it.

When everyone else is just ready to go out,
The cat is just ready to come in.
He’s not where he’s been.
Cats sleep fat and walk thin.

How to Eat a Poem

“How to Eat a Poem” by Eve Merriam 

Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down you chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

 

You do not need a knife or a fork or spoon or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

 

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

The Life and Times of Gregory Peace


 

There once was a man named Gregory Peace.

He’d sit in his kitchen chair all day and all night, filling up colorful balloons.
The next day he’d take the balloons and a fistful of ribbon, down to the train station.

There, he would squeeze and squish all his balloons into a rail car,
pardoning his way to other travelers from station to station.

At the last stop he would depart, causing the sea of people to part
and let him pass

And into the light!

Past the train-station gates

Up the stairs

Who would have thought, that colors could become so blue and green!
The sunlit treetops waving leafy branches at the sapphire sky.

There he would sit, on a bench in the park
cutting the fistful of ribbon.

Even strips of shining silver, each one as tall as himself!
He would then tie each even strip to a balloon, then to his arm so they wouldn’t fly away.

By the time he was done he had at least a hundred balloons, each tied to his arm.
Then, the wind picked up and the balloons lifted into the air.

All of a sudden Gregory found himself skipping across the park, over the stoplight, and straight down Bunbury Boulevard!

Ducking and weaving he went in-between speeding cars, through clouds of steam that rose from the potholes, and straight into crowds and crowds of pedestrians.

Skipping by with a pardon to each, he began to tug on the silver strips of ribbon.
One pulled free and then another.

As he went, skipping and tugging, he handed the balloons to each passerby.
“Can’t stay to chat!  Have a wonderful day!”  
He would call as the balloons pulled him down the street.

Soon there were only a few balloons left tied to his arm.
Then there was only one.

The wind still billowed through the street, but Gregory remained standing still.
Holding his last balloon, he searched for the perfect person to whom he could give.

Then, from around the corner the wind blew, tiny pieces of ribbon each one blue.
Next came six tabby kittens, a streaking blur of

 orange                         striped                        grey               and spotted fur.  

Stop those kittens!” shouted a boy skidding to a stop.
Tousled hair and out of breath he pointed the kittens disappearing down the street.

Gregory, surprised and startled, let go of his last balloon.
Up, up it floated until it too was out of sight.

“I will help you find your kittens,” he said, and together they went running down the street, pardoning their way to the bustling bustling travelers each.

To be continued…

 

Where I Go

Sometimes, I wish that I could just fly away,
if only for a moment.

To set my heart free,
to soar above the clouds and sing my joy.

Reach into the darkest corners of my mind,
to tear away the shroud that hides my soul.

 

To be free,

at peace,

if only for a moment.

~Keys2Change