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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Migrants on death path through the ruins: Wislawa Szymborska: "I don't seek refuge for eternity" (1962) / "We used to know the world inside out" (1945)

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death path [Syria]: image by baraa al-halabi, 20 September 2015

Wislawa Szymborska: Conversation with a Stone

I knock at the stone’s front door. "It’s only me, let me come in. I want to enter your insides, have a look round, breathe my fill of you.”
 
“Go away,” says the stone. “I’m shut tight. Even if you break me to pieces, we’ll all still be closed. You can grind us to sand, we still won’t let you in.”
 
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me, let me come in. I’ve come out of pure curiosity. Only life can quench it. I mean to stroll through your palace, then go calling on a leaf, a drop of water. I don’t have much time. My mortality should touch you.”
 
“I’m made of stone,” says the stone, “and must therefore keep a straight face. Go away. I don’t have the muscles to laugh.”
 
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me, let me come in. I hear you have great empty halls inside you, unseen, their beauty in vain, soundless, not echoing anyone’s steps. Admit you don’t know them well yourself.”
 
“Great and empty, true enough,” says the stone, “But there isn’t any room. Beautiful, perhaps, but not to the taste of your poor senses. You may get to know me, but you’ll never know me through. My whole surface is turned toward you, all my insides turned away.”
 
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me, let me come 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 there will be only words, which no one will believe.”
 
“You shall not enter,” says the stone. “You lack the sense of taking part. No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part. Even sight heightened to become all-seeing will do you no good without a sense of taking part. You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what that sense should be, only its seed, imagination.”
 
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me, let me come in. I haven’t got two thousand centuries, so let me come under your roof.”
 
“If you don’t believe me,” says the stone, “just ask the leaf, it will tell you the same. Ask a drop of water, it will tell you what the leaf has said. And, finally, ask a hair from your own head. I am bursting with laughter, yes, vast laughter, although I don’t know how to laugh.”

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

“I don’t have a door,” says the stone.

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012): Rozmowa z kamieniem / A conversation with a stone, from Sól / Salt, 1962, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

A young boy pushes his head through a space in the fence to look over into the Hungarian side of the border where police are standing guard. He and the 400-500 people behind him are in #nomansland—no longer in #Serbia, but not quite in #Hungary. #refugeec | by stuartjsia

A young boy pushes his head through a space in the fence to look over into the Hungarian side of the border where police are standing guard. He and the 400-500 people behind him are in no man's land  -- no longer in Serbia, but not yet in Hungary: photo by Stuart J. Sia, 15 September 2015

Après un bombardement contre Alep, le 15 juillet 2014 (AFP / Baraa Al-Halabi)
Après un bombardement contre Alep
: photo by Baraa Al-Halabi / AFP,  15 July 2014

Une zone d'Alep sous contrôle rebelle, le 24 novembre 2014 (AFP / Baraa Al-Halabi)

Une zone d'Alep sous contrôle rebelle: photo by Baraa Al-Halabi / AFP, 24 November 2014

Living History | by Roy Cheung Photography

Ruin of the National Bank in Bielanska Street, Warsaw: photo by Roy Cheung, 24 October 2008

Kraków, Nowa Huta, czołg | by santiagointernational

Kraków, Nowa Huta, czolg: image via santiagoInternational, 24 January 2010

Boznanska, Olga (1865-1945) - 1906 Interior of the Artist's Studio in Krakow (National Museum, Krakow, Poland) | by RasMarley

Interior of artist's studio in Krakow: Olga Boznanska (1865-1945) (National Museum, Krakow, Poland): image via Ras Marley, 20 October 2011

ALEPPO : Osama, a fourteen-year-old boy who lost his foot in an air strike led by Syrian government forces: image via baraa al halabi @baraaalhalabi, 19 September 2015

Wislawa Szymborska: "We used to know the world inside out"

We used to know the world inside out:
It was so small that it fit into two clenched fists,
So easy, that it could be described with a smile,
As ordinary as the echo of old truths in a prayer.

History did not greet us with a victorious fanfare:
It poured dirty sand into our eyes.
Before us there were roads, distant and blind,
Poisoned wells, bitter bread.

Our war loot was information about the world:
It is so big that it fits into two clenched fists,
So difficult that it can be described with a smile,
As strange as the echo of old truths in a prayer.

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012): "We used to know the world inside out", uncollected poem from Walka / Battle (no. 8), 1945, as cited in Wislawa Szymborska - The Poetry of Existence: Krystyna Dąbrowska, Culture.Pl, December 2007, translated from the Polish by Tadeusz Z. Wolański


#migrant crisis: A woman carries her child as she walks towards the Serbia-Croatia border. Photo @armend_nimani: image via Stéphane Arnaud @StephaneArnaud, 20 September 2015

Embedded image permalink

Refugees walk towards the Serbia-Croatia border near Sid in #Serbia: Photo @armend_nimani: image via AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 20 September 2015



Migrants waited Saturday at Croatia’s Harmica border crossing, hoping to be allowed into Slovenia and, eventually, Austria: photo by Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times, 20 September 2015

The Piano Player of Yarmouk

His piano burned by IS, Syrian musician joins migrant tide {photo Rami Al-Sayed/file]: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 19 September 2015
His piano burned by IS, Syrian musician joins migrant tide: Rana Moussaoui/AFP News, 18 September 2015

Three years of siege, famine and bombing of his Damascus refugee camp didn't kill celebrated musician Aeham al-Ahmad, but something died inside him the day jihadists burned his beloved piano in front of his eyes.

It was then that Ahmad, whose music had brought consolation, even a bit of joy, to Yarmouk camp's beleaguered residents, decided to join thousands of others and seek refuge in Europe.

"They burned it in April, on my birthday. It was my most cherished possession," Ahmad told AFP.

"The piano wasn't just an instrument. It was like the death of a friend."

For 27-year-old Ahmad, whose songs of hope amid the rubble of Syria's largest Palestinian camp became a social media sensation last year, "it was a very painful moment".


Does anyone know what happened to these #Palestinian refugees inside the Yarmouk Refugee Camp inside #Syria?: image via Tarek Fatah Verified account @TarekFatah, 14 September 2015  Toronto, Ontario

Since Syria's civil war struck Yarmouk in 2013, the once-thriving neighbourhood saw its population dwindle from 150,000 Palestinians and Syrians to barely 18,000 people.

The camp was caught up in fighting among government forces, rebels, and jihadists and suffered a devastating siege by the Syrian army. About 200 people died from malnutrition and a lack of medicines.


 A message from #Syria's famous piano man who fled the besieged #Yarmouk camp after years of bringing hope to others: image via Sakir Khader @sakirkhader, 14 September 2015
 
Ahmad became a symbol of hope, helping Yarmuk's people -- particularly its children -- forget for a moment the brutal war raging around them with every note he played.

"The days when I felt the most helpless were when I had money, but I could not get milk for my year-old baby Kinan, or when my older son Ahmad would ask me for a biscuit," he said.

"It was the worst feeling."

But after Islamic State group militants attacked the camp in April, Ahmad's gentle, tentative ray of light was engulfed in flames.

He was in a pickup truck, trying to move his piano to nearby Yalda, where his wife and two boys were living, when he was stopped at a jihadist checkpoint.


Piano player of #Yarmouk #Syria now in #Croatia, wants to play piano in #Berlin streets: image via Rik Delhass @RikDelhass, 20 September 2015

"Don't you know that music is haram (forbidden by Islam)," a gunman asked, before torching his beloved instrument.

Ahmad had stayed in Yarmouk until the day IS reduced his battered but precious upright piano to ashes: "That's when I decided to leave."

File picture shows Aeham al-Ahmad, a former resident of Damascus' Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, being helped by a friend to push his piano along a the street in the southern Damascus suburb

Aeham al-Ahmad, a former resident of Damascus' Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, being helped by a friend to push his piano along a the street in the southern Damascus suburb: photo by Rami Al-Sayed/file via AFP, 18 September 2015
 
He would make for Germany, from where he would then try to get his family out of Syria.


The keg is tapped in Munich as #Oktoberfest opens in shadow of refugee crisis: image via Agence France-Presse@AFP, 20 September 2015

He began the dangerous journey out of Damascus "as rockets rained down", heading north through the provinces of Homs, Hama, and Idlib until he reached the Turkish border.

"At every step, I would meet another trafficker of human flesh," he recalled.

With the help of smugglers, he avoided Turkey's increasingly watchful security forces by crawling through barriers of barbed wire and spending nights sleeping fitfully in dark forests.

With other Syrian men, women, and children, Ahmad trekked through mountainous terrain to reach the Turkish coast.

"Once, we went 24 hours without eating a thing; the children were so hungry they would cry. It was horrible," Ahmad said.

On September 10, he began posting pictures on Facebook to document his journey.

The first was of his emaciated face. When he was in Yarmouk, he weighed a mere 45 kilos (99 pounds).

When he finally arrived in Izmir on the Mediterranean, Turkey's second port, Ahmad was shocked to see refugees "sleeping on sidewalks as they couldn't afford a hotel room".

A trafficker arranged for him to spend the night in an apartment "full of rats and insects".



A message from #Syria's famous piano man who fled the besieged #Yarmouk camp after years of bringing hope to others: image via Sakir Khader @sakirkhader, 14 September 2015

Then, he and some 70 others were crammed into a tiny van heading to the coastline, where they would take a dinghy to the Greek island of Lesbos.

They each paid smugglers $1,250, as thousands of others had done, knowing they might not survive.


Iraqis buy life jackets for trip to Europe's distant shores: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015

Suddenly gripped with fear, Ahmad took to his Facebook travel journal, "Diaries of a Traveller in the Sea".


A message from #Syria's famous piano man who fled the besieged #Yarmouk camp after years of bringing hope to others: image via Sakir Khader @sakirkhader,, 14 September 2015

"Dearest Mediterranean, I am Aeham and would like to safely ride your waves," he posted on Monday.

When the first rays of sunlight struck the sea at dawn on Thursday, Ahmad found himself on a Greek beach.

Tapping along on his knees, he sang a tragic tune about the "death haunting" his country: "Tragedy has crossed the seas/ Syria implores its displaced children to return."

Dreaming, like so many others, of reaching Germany, Ahmad made his way to Macedonia, then Serbia, and was on his way to Zagreb Saturday night "if they let me in".


Thankful #refugees #Croatia: image via Ivana Brkic @ibrksi, 19 September 2015

"It has been non-stop," he told AFP. "I haven't slept for the past three days; I am exhausted. I hope I will reach my destination soon."


Nervoza i naguravanje na GP Bregana #izbjeglice zele sto prije u autobuse #refugeecrisis: image via Ivana Brkic @ibrksi, 19 September 2015

"I want to play in the streets of Berlin like I played in the streets of Yarmouk," he said.

But his dream doesn't end there.

"I would love to play in the most famous orchestras, touring around the world and conveying the suffering of those that are besieged in (Yarmouk) and of all the civilians still in Syria."


Piano burned by #IslamicState, Syria musician joins migrant tide #MigrantCrisis: Image via Hindustan Times @htTweets, 20 September 2015

Migrants start arriving in Austria across Slovenian border: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015


Migrant crisis deepens as thousands pour into Austria: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015


Migrant crisis deepens as thousands pour into Austria: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015


Migrant crisis deepens as thousands pour into Austria: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015


Migrant crisis deepens as thousands pour into Austria: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 20 September 2015

Wave of crises puts European dream at risk: image via Agence France-Presse@AFP, 19 September 2015

A letter to World from Occupied Kafranabel | by FreedomHouse

World! Stop Miming Hamlet on the Syrian Stage: Al-Assad isn't Acting; He is Slaughtering Us. Occupied Kafranbel, Syria: photo by Freedom House, 21 January 2012

RUSSIA! Since You Made Assad A Hitman To Kill Us, Expect Him to Pay Your Dept In Hell | by FreedomHouse

Russia! Since You made Al-Assad a Hitman to Kill Us, Expect Him to Pay Your Debt In Hell. Occupied Kafranbel, Syria: photo by Freedom House, 4 February 2012

Security Council, The Syrians, Are Under Fire. Don't Let Us Down | by FreedomHouse

Security Council! We, the Syrians, Are Under Fire. Don't Let Us Down. Occupied Kafranbel, Syria: photo by Freedom House, 4 February 2012

Syrians Want to Topple the Murderous Regime - Dael, Daraa | by FreedomHouse

Syrians Want To Topple The Murderous Regime -- Dael, Daraa: photo by Freedom House, 24 January 2012

We Will Win Because We Are Right! | by FreedomHouse

We Will Win Because We Are Right!: photo by Freedom House, 21 January 2012

EPA_migrant_crisis_24_mm_150821_16x11_1600.jpg | by FreedomHouse

Migrant crisis [photo by EPA]: image by Freedom House, 13 September 2015
 
EUROPE-MIGRANTS/HUNGARY | by scrolleditorial

An injured migrant carries a child during clashes with Hungarian riot police at the border crossing with Hungary in Roszke on 16 September 2015. Photo by Karnok Csaba/Reuters: image by scrolleditorial, 16 September 2015

5 comments:

tpw said...

The power of the U.S. is implicit in all those English-language signs; the power of music is implicit in the need for religious fundamentalists to burn instruments.

TC said...

Terry, thanks so much for picking up on the piano man. Perhaps if art and music and joy and poetry are ever to rise again, it must be out of the ruins.

Certainly in the case of the brave piano man of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp (age 27, perhaps one day to become 28, Insh'Allah), and of, to cite another marvelous example, the brilliant young photographer working in the midst of the ruined city of Aleppo, Baraa Al-Halabi, who took the top shot and some others here, there is a great deal more courage and therefore hope for any possible future than could be detected in, for example, any MFA program or institute of the arts in the known universe of the so called West.

Siria: la canzone di Ahmad (9 April 2015)

Kids singing with Ahmad the piano man in Yarmouk Camp, Damascus (22 July 2015)

About those Syrians holding up signage for our benefit, yes indeed, it is certainly intended for us -- the masters of the known universe, all sensitive people surely, with our statesmanlike Presidential candidates taking turns to make it plain that, in their world, no Muslim may be regarded as a human being, much less be elected POTUS.

Syrian boy crying at the death of his sisters / Enfant Syrien pleurant la mor de ses soeurs (7 July 2014)

tpw said...

Ah, Tom. You've got me weeping down here in the basement again.

billoo said...

Amazing, amazing post, Tom!

These lines struck me:

“Great and empty, true enough,” says the stone, “But there isn’t any room. Beautiful, perhaps, but not to the taste of your poor senses."

Wooden Boy said...

Spent this morning looking through the post. The two poems catch the truth of alienation perfectly. The clips floored me.