The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Cat in an Empty Apartment
By Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Die - you can't do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there's more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they're new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn't start
at its usual time.
Something doesn't happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared
and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken:
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done?
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
just let him show his face.

Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle toward him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.


Written shortly after Szymborska's husband died. A sad but nice companion piece to "Retriever".

My parents took the kids to Baltimore for the Orioles/Yankees game, where they had good weather but a most unfortunate result. apaulled went downtown, where we had blissful ignorance of the Yankees score but terrible weather. Our original plan was to head to the National Gallery of Art, but it was raining so hard that we ducked into the nearer National Museum of National History. Which was mobbed -- not sure if lots of other people had the same idea when the sky opened up or whether there were just a lot of tourists and local visitors downtown on a rainy Sunday -- but we braved the crowds in Minerals & Gems to see the Tiffany Diamond while it's on loan to the museum, though I must confess that I'm always more impressed with the stones nature made than the ones people designed.

Crocoite from a lead mine in Tazmania. The color comes from chromium.

Elbaite with hairlike crystals that formed on top.

Amblygonite with eosphorite. The blue crystal is a source of lithium.

Dioptase, which is green because it contains copper whose molecules absorb all colors of visible light except green, which is reflected back.

Drum Mountains meteorite, iron, found in Utah.

And the Tiffany Diamond in its "Bird on a Rock" setting, on loan to the Smithsonian in honor of a new endowment by Tiffany and Co. which acquired this diamond in 1878.

When the rain stopped we walked to the Air & Space Museum to see the exhibit on Earth from space, but it was closed for some fire alarm renovation, which was quite annoying! So after wandering around a bit, we came home and watched Rasputin, which is a rather uneven movie but totally enjoyable anyway...Alan Rickman as the title character, Ian McKellen and Greta Scacchi as Nicholas and Alexandra, and Rickman plays Rasputin as utterly convinced that he had been touched by the divine even if the script didn't seem to be able to make up its mind whether he was a charlatan or not (nor whether he seduced the Tsarina or not). The acting is far better than the dialogue but even the little boy playing Alexei is very good, and Rickman just devours the screen when he's on -- you can't take your eyes off him. (And it's great fun to hear all the ways he's described as a wizard, heh.)

My parents decided not to stay in Baltimore in case the storms hit there, so they came back this way and we all had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, which is never my first choice but instead of pizza I had their kung pao spaghetti and it actually cleared my sinuses for awhile so I felt better. Now my headache is back and I am really sick of it. Am hoping it goes away with the bad weather!

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