conversation with a stone

by erinohsays

Conversation with a Stone, By Wislawa Szymborska, translated from Polish by Magda Karski. Performed by Magda Karski and Erin Oh in April 2011 in Waterloo, Ontario.

Translation by Magda Karski:

I knock at the door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.
I want to enter inside,
have a look around,
take you in like breath.”

“I’m sealed tight.
Even if you break me to pieces,
we’ll still be closed.
You can grind us to grit,
we still won’t let you in.”

I knock at door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.
I’ve come out of pure curiosity.
Only life can quench it.
I mean to walk through your palace,
then visit a leaf and drops of water.
I don’t have much time.
My mortality should touch you.”

“I’m made of stone
And therefore I must remain austere.
I don’t have the ability to laugh.”

I knock at the door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.
I hear that you have great empty halls inside you,
unseen, their beauty in vain,
soundless, not echoing anyone’s footsteps.
Admit you don’t know them well yourself.”

“Great and empty halls
but there is no space in them.
Beautiful, perhaps, but beyond
What your poor palate is capable of experiencing.
You may get to know me, but you’ll never
know me through.
My whole surface is turned toward you,
My whole interior turned away.”

I knock at the door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.
I don’t seek refuge for eternity.
I’m not unhappy.
I’m not homeless.
My world is worth returning to.
I’ll enter and exit empty-handed.

And my proof I was here
will be only words,
which no one will believe.”

“You will not enter,”
“You lack a sense of participation.
No other sense can make up for
your absent sense of participation.
Even sight heightened to become all-seeing
will do you no good without a sense of participation.
You will not enter, you have only the faintest idea
Of what that sense should be,
Only its seed, imagination.”

I knock at the door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.
I can’t wait two thousand centuries,
to be allowed under your roof.”

“If you don’t believe me
ask the leaf, it will tell you the same.
Ask a drop of water, it will say what the leaf has said.
And finally, ask a hair from your own head.
I am bursting with laughter, great laughter,
I, who am incapable of laughing.”

I knock at the door of the stone.
“It’s me, let me in.”

“I have no door.”