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EVERYTHING IS NOT LOST! SOMETHING LESS FOR AN EXTRA LIFE – STARFISHES

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Luisa Fazio

When I was a child , I loved to catch starfishes and then let them dry on a rock. Once dried, I brought them into my house. I felt that with their ‘five arms’ they would bring me luck. A quintuple luck. So, they became my amulets. Among echinoderms, starfishes are capable of autotomy: they defend themselves from any kind of danger in order to survive self-mutilation. They voluntarily eliminate one or more arms. These arms, over time, re-grow completely thanks to the regenerative power of the injured tissues. They lose a part of them but they save their own lives! Think people, starfishes teach! They ‘roll up’ their sleeves (oops, arms!) and regroup and rebuild what’s lost, without gettting demoralized. 

Today, I think of them as an example of strength, rebirth, hope, clinging to life in memory of what’s no longer necessary. “Non Omnis moriar” i.e. I will not die at all. It’s a verse of Horace’s poem included by Wislawa Szymborska (Polish poet – Nobel Prize for Literature 1996) dedicated to the particular duality of echinoderms. Bye bye past, welcome the future! It’s a new beginning!

“Autotomy,” by Wislawa Szymborska

When in danger the sea-cucumber divides itself in two:
one self it surrenders for devouring by the world,
with the second it makes good its escape.
It splits violently into perdition and salvation,
into fine and reward, into what was and what will be.
In the middle of its body there opens up a chasm
with two shores that are immediately alien.
On one shore death, on the other life.
Here despair, there hope.
If a scale exists, the balance does not tip.
If there is justice, here it is.
To die as much as necessary, without going too far.
To grow back as much as needed, from the remnant that survives.
We know how to divide ourselves, how true, we too.
But only into a body and an interrupted whisper.
Into body and poetry.
On one side the throat, laughter on the other,
that’s light and quickly dying.
Here a heavy heart, there non omnis moriar,
just three little words like three feathers in ascent.
The chasm does not cut us in two.
The chasm surrounds us.

poetessa 2

 

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