Jack Grapes: “SZYMBORSKA”


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Jack Grapes is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, teacher, and the editor and publisher of ONTHEBUS, one of the top literary journals in the country. This poem is from Jack’s new book, The Naked Eye. Signed copies may be ordered directly from the poet here.



I came home
Wednesday night from class
and Lori was ensconced
like a caterpillar in a cocoon
on the bed, watching a movie on tv
about crazy people who fall in love
and break china.
“Szymborska died,” I said.

She reached for the remote
and shut the tv off.
The room expanded
into that quiet bubble we experience
when we shut off the tv.

She looked at me and said nothing.

What was there to say?

A friend dies, a poet dies, poetry lives on:
There’s nothing you can say.

It’s like turning off the tv,
and their passing
fills the space of our lives
with all that silence.
A balloon of being and nothingness,
a reduction of existence
into a series of appearances,
overcoming those dualisms
that have embarrassed philosophy
and replacing them with the monism
of the phenomenon.

I put the clipboard
I still had in my hand
on the dresser
and began to undress.
Then I got in the bed
and lay beside her.
We still hadn’t spoken.

Szymborska was gone.

We just lay there for a bit,
in the silence,
not sure who would break it,
not sure whose turn it was
to turn the moment
back into words.
You need a poet
at a time like this,
and the poet was gone.

There was a small crack in the ceiling.
And a tiny cobweb in the corner.
Later, Lori’d probably get on a chair
and with a tissue
wipe it away.
That was her job,
getting those little tiny spider webs
gone before they engulfed the house,
our lives, the planet. Don’t
worry, dear reader, she’s on the job.
You will be safe.

“What’s my job?” asks Lori
when she’s nagging me.
And I repeat the mantra:
“To take care of me.”

But for now, with Szymborksa’s passing
still blooming into silence,
the cobweb
would have to wait,
the crack
would just have to bide its time.

Such a long silence.

Then I thought, fuck it.
I reached for the remote
and clicked the tv back on.

There went a teacup.
There went another.
It was good to get back
to a semblance of the world,
all that love and passion,
all those broken teacups.

Wisława Szymborska, who died February 1, 2012, was a Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

We are proud to be premiering this poem today.


About the author

Jack Grapes

Jack Grapes

Jack Grapes is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, publisher and teacher. He wrote and starred in Circle of Will, a metaphysical comedy about the "lost" years of Will Shakespeare, which won theatre critic awards for Best Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor. Jack is also the author of two books on writing: Method Writing, and Advanced Method Writing. His most recent books of poetry are: The Naked Eye, New & Selected Poems, 1987-2012; Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far To Go; and his newest collection, All The Sad Angels. They are available on Amazon.com and at Bombshelterpress.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Lori.

  • jean swales

    How deeply moving. and beautiful. I felt my own soul was saddened, and then recovered with a crash.
    Thank you Jack.

  • http://www.testarossabook.com Julie D.

    I'm just coming into this, just starting to feel the weight of her passing, having had to shove other poets and my own 'stuff' out of the way first. Eight days later it is hitting me. Odd, since I'd never heard of her before your class, Jack, yet here she is, suddenly, dug into me like a chigger.

    "A friend dies, a poet dies, poetry lives on:
    There’s nothing you can say."

    I think this says it all.

    Thanks for this, love.

    Julie D.

  • Lucinda Jenney

    Wonderful Jack. That’s the moment you know

    Everything is different now. There is the spider

    In the corner and the wife who loves you.

    The loss of a great and dear poet..well put.

    I am right beside you..you put me there.