Tortures

 

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Nothing has changed.

The body is a reservoir of pain;

it has to eat and breathe the air, and sleep;

it has thin skin and the blood is just beneath it;

it has a good supply of teeth and fingernails;

its bones can be broken; itís joints can be stretched.

In tortures, all of this is considered.

 

Nothing has changed.

They body still trembles as it trembled

before Rome was founded and after,

in the twentieth century before and after Christ.

Tortures are just what they were, only the earth has shrunk

and whatever goes on sounds as if itís just a room away.

 

Nothing has changed.

Except there are more people,

and new offenses have sprung up beside the old ones Ė

real, make-believe, short-lived and nonexistent.

But the cry with which the body answers for them

was, is, and will be a cry of innocence

in keeping with the age-old scale and pitch.

 

Nothing has changed.

Except perhaps the manners, ceremonies, dances.

The gesture of the hands shielding the head

has nonetheless remained the same.

The body writes, jerks and tugs,

falls to the ground when shoved, pulls up its knees,

bruises, swells, drools and bleeds.

 

Nothing has changed.

Except the run of the rivers,

the shape of forests, shores, deserts, and glaciers.

The little soul roams among those landscapes,

disappears, returns, draws near, moves away,

evasive and a stranger to itself,

now sure, now uncertain of its own existence,

whereas the body is and is and is

and has nowhere to go.

 

Wisława Szymborska†††††††††††††† †††††††††††

(from The People on the Bridge 1986)