A Greek Statue

By WisŁawa Szymborska

With the help of people and other disasters,
time has worked pretty hard on it.
First it took away the nose, later the genitals,
one by one fingers and toes,
with the passing of years arms, one after the other,
right thigh and left thigh,
back and hips, head and buttocks,
and what fell off, time broke into pieces,
into chunks, into gravel, into sand.

When someone living dies this way,
much blood flows with each blow.

Yet marble statues perish pale
and not always all the way.

Of the one we are speaking of, only a torso remains,
like breath held under exertion
as it now must
draw unto
itself
all the grace and weight
of what has been lost.

And it pulls this off,
pulls this off still,
pulls us in and dazzles,
dazzles and endures—

Time deserves an honorable mention here,
as it stopped midway
and left something for later.

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/03/a-greek-statue/305612/