The Poetry Of Karol Wojtyla

Pope John Paul II was an accomplished poet, which is not surprising since he seemed to love the arts. During WWII, he worked in a quarry under forced labor conditions. It was dangerous work. He wrote a sequence called "The Quarry," and the following excerpt was written about a fellow worker who had died in an accident.

He wasn't alone.
His muscles grew into the flesh of the crowd, energy their pulse,
As long as they held a hammer, as long as his feet felt the ground.
And a stone smashed his temples and cut through his heart's chamber.
They took his body and walked in a silent line
Toil still lingered about him, a sense of wrong.
They wore gray blouses, boots ankle-deep in mud.
In this, they showed the end.
How violently his time halted: the pointers on the low voltage dials jerked, then dropped to zero again.
White stone now within him, eating into his being, taking over enough of him to turn him into stone.
Who will lift up that stone, unfurl his thoughts again under the cracked temples?
So plaster cracks on the wall.
They laid him down, his back on a sheet of gravel.
His wife came, worn out with worry; his son returned from school
Should his anger now flow into the anger of others?
It was maturing in him through his own truth and love
Should he be used by those who came after, deprived of substance, unique and deeply his own?
The stones on the move again; a wagon bruising the flowers.
Again the electric current cuts deep into the walls.
But the man has taken with him the world's inner structure,where the greater the anger, the higher the explosion of love.

Ironically, while the quarry killed the subject of that poem, it actually saved Karol's life. Many people from his town had been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz and other death camps, including theatre friends and University teachers. (The town of Wadowice was about 20% Jewish before the war.) Karol was himself arrested in 1942, but released because quarry work was considered a "vital industry."

More poetry by the late Pope can be found at the Frontline site, along with a discussion of his work by poet Lynn Powell.

[cross-posted at annika's journal]

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