Aphorisms by Anna Kamienska

Jim Finnegan, proprietor of the always enlightening ursprache blog as well as the aphoristically amazing Tramp Freighter, sends news of the “aphoristic entries (or ‘entreaties’?)” of Anna Kamienska (1920-1986), from the June 2010 issue of Poetry, translated and introduced by Clare Cavanagh. “Many of [Kamienska’s] aphorisms are infused with grief at the loss of her husband to cancer at an early age,” Jim writes. “And evidently his death prompted her to come to terms with God and renewed her interest in prayer and religious ritual. Some of her aphorisms relate to the struggles involved in writing poetry in the modern world. And a good number are about the shared experience we call life.” From In That Great River: A Notebook by Anna Kamienska, Selected and translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh:

The sunrise observed in a puddle—a great metaphor.

Better if only the young and beautiful would love. But love in those aging aspics, those monstrous, flopping bodies, desire housed in the bodies of cripples, the legless, the blind—that is humanity.

We don’t realize that we live atop a quagmire of cults. Every gesture, understood rightly, has its roots in some sacred archetype. How much of me is that primeval man yearning for heaven, waiting for some sudden opening of the skies and another, true time, in which everything remains and nothing passes?

Art relies on the conversion of even flaws and defects into positive aesthetic values. It is a strange hymn to stupidity.

The curse of man: everything he makes outlives him.

Music teaches us the passing of time. It teaches the value of a moment by giving that moment value. And it passes. It’s not afraid to go.

Father J. tells me about his theory. Every time he has an inner question, it is always answered unexpectedly by someone entering the room, by an overheard conversation.

Collecting pebbles for a new mosaic of a world that I could love.

We create eternity from scraps of time.

We always receive more than we desire. We receive what we ask for, but sometimes in a different currency, a currency that turns out to be of greater worth.