Friday, March 16, 2012

The Emptiness of Being a Man

I watched Midnight in Paris today. It was delightful to see Dali and Stein and Hemingway and Picasso on the screen. Paris seemed a little antiseptic, a little too clean, but still, it was beautiful, and it made me want to go back. It also made me sad, and this made me want a poem tonight. I opened my anthology, and this is where I landed: Joao Cabral de Melo Neto is speaking of what it means to feel empty.

The Emptiness of Being a Man

1.
The emptiness of being a man is not like
any other: not like an empty coat
or empty sack (things which do not stand up
when empty, such as an empty man),
the emptiness of man is more like fullness
the swollen things which keep on swelling,
the way a sack must feel
that is being filled, or any sack at all.
The emptiness of man, this full emptiness,
is not like a sack of bricks' emptiness
or a sack of rivets', it does not have the pulse
that beats in a seed bag or bag of eggs.

2.
The emptiness of man, though it resembles
fullness, and seems all of a piece, actually
is made of nothings, bits of emptiness,
like the sponge, empty when filled,
swollen like the sponge, with air, with empty air,
it has copied its very structure from the sponge,
it has made up in clusters, of bubbles, of non-grapes.
Man's empty fullness is like a sack
filled with sponges, is filled with emptiness;
man's emptiness, or swollen emptiness,
or the emptiness that swells by being empty.

(translated by Galway Kinnell)