Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leopold Staff: Foundations


I built on the sand
And it tumbled down,
I built on a rock
And it tumbled down.
Now when I build, I shall begin
With the smoke from the chimney.

We gather insight and take our inspiration as we go. I’m no different. A lovely poem like this one crosses my path, written by a man who died the year after I was born. I make no notes, jot down no reminders to investigate further. Quite possibly I will remember: his name; that he was Polish; his modernist connection. But I won’t be able to tell you what a modernist is, or a Pole for that matter. In my mind he is another man who lived, and who tried to make sense of that experience through words. Later, if I happen on his name in a used bookstore, if I find it, perhaps, in a musty old anthology, I will take that as my cue to renew my appreciation. And I will remember once again that he was born in the same year as the poet Carl Sandburg, and the widely unknown farmer who was my mother’s father, that steady man who chopped kindling, ever wary of his hernia.


9 comments:

Joseph Hutchison said...

Wonderful, William! I read the same way—peripatetically—which is why I'm such a lousy researcher. I enjoy the byways more than the main-travelled roads. And now Leopold Staff is on my map. Thanks for pointing me his way....

William Michaelian said...

My pleasure, Joe. Thanks. At least you have a map. I had a broken compass, until I realized it was an old dollar pocket watch my father had given me after it had become unreliable. It still gets me where I want to go, though, which is someplace timeless.

Anthony Duce said...

Enjoyed mostly what was remembered here, and how the times were expressed.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Anthony. As always, one thing leads to another, as frequently demonstrated in your blending of words and pictures on your blog.

Stream Source said...

We are all simple farmers. The gift comes not from what we do, but in realizing who we are.

William Michaelian said...

And perhaps in recognizing the possibility, even the likelihood, that we don’t. I speak for myself, of course. Thank you, Donna.

Stream Source said...

Once revealed, we know beyond all doubt who we are... it's that pesky, persistent forgetting of the revelation that keeps us earth side. Making the very best of it, just the same. Dreaming, until the dreams of the night and dreams of the day become One. Farm on ~

Threemicsrecords said...

Leopold Staff, one of my favorite poet. Unfortunately not much was translated to English.


YOU MAY LOVE



You may love and yet never know, never yearn.
In the wake of an accidental meeting,
Shaking hands, hasty farewells or warm greetings.
Taking your leave with peace of mind-no return...


But the next day, as the moment fades and while
You randomly ponder this and that, there unfolds
A burgeoning heartfelt passion; something gold.
You suddenly feel in your heart-into exile!


You may reflect, rationalize, in vain debate
And filter the past with sieved memories
So as to find something in it, a life aglow.


But sadness looms only in gray, dry poppies,
Like ashes on an obituary whispering, "too late."
You may indeed be in love but never, ever know.


Introduction and translation by Barry Keane

William Michaelian said...

And hereby again our appreciation is renewed. Many thanks.