The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 2 no. 1


Stanislaw Baranczak

These Words


These words from reviewing stands and these in parlors,
these, sewn by the thick thread of a voice
into the official-blue bag of a suit, and
those, stripped naked of their denim
in the probing search of revision;
these, known from having been heard too often, and those,
scarcely remembered from having been seen
so rarely; these words, which easily
let themselves slip through the strainer of a microphone,
and those, which must work themselves through a grating
with immense effort; these,
delivered with unflinching audacity, and those,
whispered softly from shame and anxiety into the ears
of a guard; these, spoken straightforward
into the dry eye of a camera, and those, which at being spoken
one’s eyes lower, for it is hard to bear a woman’s tears;
these words, which are broken in conference rooms
by stormy, long, unceasing applause,
and those, in visiting rooms broken
by the intervention of a watchful clock; these words,
these words of speeches too long and conversations too short

are—I know it’s inconceivable—words
of one and the same tongue.