„A ballad about the Discoverer”

To memory of Strzelecki

corn

First his own body
it was exactly
like the other bodies bent in half
over the corn-fields

Further the female bodies
young and already somebody else’s
the one who knew all
the other who knew nothing
And she wanted to escape with him

What a shame for the family

Further still
complexities of Honour and Motherland
considered at the card-table
between wars
on the officers’ lodgings

He tasted, and rejected

Further the witchcraft of science
alchemy for mortals
And around the world grew smaller
In the chug of steam boilers
In the rattle of train rails hammered into shape

Further yet sailing-ships
songs of the ocean
lands still not open
people not portrayed
tongues to be learned

And yet further still
to the limits
of body endurance
driven with iron-will
to finish what's begun
to describe
to name
to deliver

Then
he discovered fame
the weight of medals
the bombast of speeches in honour
the scrambling for contributions

for prizes
for places on plinths

And he discovered
the loss of a friend
who went alone into the unknown
in quest for a dream

And he realised
how delusive is memory of love
efflorescent after years
like the old letters

He died bitter

And some hundred years later
We are
Discovering again
That the earth everywhere produces
If wisely
Given what it needs
And
That people everywhere are alike
They do not wish to listen.

© Anna Habryn 4. 10. 2008