FORMER US POET LAUREATE Robert Pinsky, who teaches at Boston University, shares his reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings:
Out of town, watching the horror on a screen, in a familiar place on a familiar occasion, I thought first of my daughter, who works at Mass. General, and my daughter-in-law, who was in Copley Square a couple of hours before the explosions. Along with grief, sympathy, and that personal dread, I thought of a poem about a long-ago war, in another place. In “Souvenir of the Ancient World,” Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987) understands what might be called the loss of the normal. Boston will endure, the Marathon will endure, we will celebrate again as we remember. But to some distinct degree, yet to be known, the security of the normal will be, for many of us, diminished. Or if not exactly diminished, it will include a note of being — in de Andrade’s terms — ancient.
Souvenir of the Ancient World
Clara strolled in the garden with the children.
The sky was green over the grass,
the water was golden under the bridges,
other elements were blue and rose and orange,
a policeman smiled, bicycles passed,
a girl stepped onto the lawn to catch a bird,
the whole world — Germany, China —
All was quiet around Clara.
The children looked at the sky: it was not forbidden.
Mouth, nose, eyes were open. There was no danger.
What Clara feared were the flu, the heat, the insects.
Clara feared missing the eleven o’clock trolley,
waiting for letters slow to arrive,
not always being able to wear a new dress. But
she strolled in the garden, in the morning!
They had gardens, they had mornings in those days!
— Carlos Drummond de Andrade, translated by Mark Strand
Poem used with the permission of Mark Strand.