One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Szymborska's "The Terrorist, He's Watching"

I'm not a great fan of reading out loud, but I used to love reading this to some of my older students (and I'm a math teacher by trade!). Anyhow, am thinking about this poem today, and so far as I can tell, I've never  posted it until now.


The Terrorist, He’s Watching

The bomb in the bar will explode at thirteen twenty.
Now it’s just thirteen sixteen.
There’s still time for some to go in,
and some to come out.

The terrorist has already crossed the street.
The distance keeps him out of danger,
and what a view – just like the movies:

A woman in a yellow jacket, she’s going in.
A man in dark glasses, he’s coming out.
Teen-agers in jeans, they’re talking.
Thirteen seventeen and four seconds.
The short one, he’s lucky, he’s getting on a scooter,
but the tall one, he’s going in.

Thirteen seventeen and forty seconds.
That girl, she’s walking along with a green ribbon in her hair.
But then a bus suddenly pulls in front of her.
Thirteen eighteen.
The girl’s gone.
Was she that dumb, did she go in or not,
we’ll see when they carry them out.

Thirteen nineteen.
Somehow no one’s going in.
Another guy, fat, bald, is leaving, though.
Wait a second, looks like he’s looking for something in his pockets and
at thirteen twenty minus ten seconds
he goes back in for his crummy gloves.

Thirteen twenty exactly.
This waiting, it’s taking forever.

Any second now.
No, not yet.
Yes, now.
The bomb, it explodes.
[Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh]

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