Reading: M – Black Monday by Marcin Świetlicki

Today there is this compact poem by Marcin Świetlicki for our ideosyncratic anthology. As usual, I’ll say what struck me about these lines.

The moment when all the town’s streetlamps light up
simultaneously. The moment when you say
your incredible “no,” and suddenly I don’t know what
to do next: die? go away? not respond?
The moment in the sunshine when I watch you from the bus,
your face different from when you know I’m looking
—and now you can’t see me, you’re looking into nothing, into the shiny
glass in front of me. Not me anymore, not with me,
not in this way, not here. Anything can
happen, since everything does happen. Everything is defined
by three basic positions: man on top of woman,
woman on top of man, or the one right now
—woman and man divided by the light.

The contradiction between the title and the first line in which the streetlamps light up catches this reader’s attention. A lover is rejected and suddenly doesn’t know what to do next (if he weren’t reject, he’d know precisely what to do).
We can guess that the “no” was said late at night (or not so late: the streetlamps light up just after sunset) and the narrator takes the bus the next morning, when the sunshine lights up the scene. It seems like there’s always light, yet according to the title, he experiences a ‘black Monday’. The blackness here is at first glance the unrequited love.

The middle part of the poem sounds like some pseudophilosophical ramblings. Their separation is consummated by the new opening: suddenly, “anything can happen, since everything does happen”. That mysterious phrase is then explained brilliantly by the wry triad of the three basic positions. We may assume that the first too positions have been faithfully explored by the ex-lovers. This poem is about the third one, the division by the light. That phrase has a magical ring to it, and I can imagine it sounds even better in the original Polish: przedzieleni światłem. I think it is a brilliant metaphor for its strangeness and its re-interpretation of loss as the completion of ‘everything’. The poem says nothing about the woman’s motives to reject her suitor (I assume the gender because the author is male, but it is an interesting exercise to show how we know that the voice of the poem is male). Maybe “M” is the first letter of the name of the woman, or does it stand for Mythology?

The division by the light calls up the mythological imagery brought to us by Plato in the Symposium, of original unity of the sexes and Zeus splitting them into several parts, out of fear for their power. It also reminds us Prometheus: Was the light in the poem stolen from the gods and the division of the lovers divine punishment? Everything is enlightened (like in Safran Foer‘s novel) and everything has happened. There is nothing outside of this Everything, all positions have been realized. Everything from now on would be mere repetition, hence the blackness in the title.

Marcin Świetlicki. Image Wikimedia Commons

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