Cento for the Last House on Holland Island, Fallen into the Bay
Memory has finally found what it was after,
has struck, down there in the depths, against a great thing.
So it is the same house—
it’s invisible, though it’s not — tall, gray.
The minutes come out of the box where they were hidden.
Stay said the house and the curtains touched our shoulders
with expectation. The raveled horizon
with these ebbing tides, with these mouths
full of mud and death.
Whale blue house,
should, at any moment, cave in.
Are you not in the house?
Under water, delighted by delicate crustaceans—
the rest of the room remains,
close to the banks, close.
Tell me what happened to you and what you saw
stacked in some secret bank or cabinet.
Here’s a birch basket, tens of feathers, none of which will ever belong again.
The moon did not appear that night
through the dark, – as if it would tell us something
about what life was like here.
The stranger left that house on hastening feet
to fathom the darkness,
these walls. You claim no wood is ever dead.
Windless, starless night,
dawnlight to dawnlight, I look: it is still there.
Sources: Wislawa Szymborska trans. by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavenaugh, Juan Ramon Jimenez trans. by Robert Bly, Michael Palmer, David Baker, Tony Hoagland, Kate Barnes, Linda Gregerson, Ranier Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda trans. by Robert Bly and James Wright, Robyn Schiff, Mark Doty, Heid E. Erdrich, James Wright, Carolyn Forche, Thomas Lux, Mary Rueffle, Kay Ryan, Mary Ann Samyn, Michael Palmer, Mary Szybist, GC Waldrep and John Galleher, John Ashbery, Diane Ackerman, Claudia Emerson, George Trakl, Jane Hirschfield