Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky: “How can I not remember… my happiness.”
Anna Karenina: “Happiness? You murdered my happiness. Murderer. Murderer! Oh yes! Murderer!… <whisper> Murderer…”
View with a Grain of Sand
by Wisława Szymborska
We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
incorrect or apt.
Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn’t feel itself seen and touched.
and that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it, it is no different from falling on anything else
with no assurance that it has finished falling
or that it is falling still.
The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world,
soundless, odorless, and painless.
The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,
And its shore exists shorelssly.
Its water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.
And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows
A second passes.
A second second.
But they’re three seconds only for us.
Time has passed like a courier with urgent news
but that’s just our simile.
The character is invented, his haste is make-believe
his news inhuman.
“View with a Grain of Sand” from View with a Grain of Sand, by Wisława Szymborska. Copyright © 1976 by Czytelnik, Warszawa. Text copyright © 1995 by Harcourt Brace & Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
“In the four hundred years since the last devouring soul appeared; the last man to know the meaning of ecstasy, there has been a constant and steady decline of man in art, in thought, in action. The world is pooped out: there isn’t a dry fart left.”
– Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
“You can never guard yourself against absolute stupidity. People are so desperate for certainties that they would rather art were not art. They would rather it were history or autobiography because art’s really scary. If you’re saying this comes from nowhere, then they have to contemplate that.”
—Jeanette Winterson, BOMB 43, Spring 1993