Once upon a time

~ A poem by Gabriel Okara ~

Once upon a time, son,
they used to laugh with their hearts
and laugh with their eyes:
but now they only laugh with their teeth,
while their ice-block-cold eyes
search behind my shadow.

There was a time indeed
they used to shake hands with their hearts:
but that’s gone, son.
Now they shake hands without hearts
while their left hands search
my empty pockets.

“Feel at home!” “Come again”:
they say, and when I come
again and feel
at home, once, twice,
there will be no thrice –
for then I find doors shut on me.

So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces
like dresses – homeface,
officeface, streetface, hostface,
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles
like a fixed portrait smile.

And I have learned too
to laugh with only my teeth
and shake hands without my heart.
I have also learned to say, “Goodbye”,
when I mean “Good-riddance”:
to say, “Glad to meet you”,
without being glad; and to say, “It’s been
nice talking to you”, after being bored.

But believe me, son,
I want to be what I used to be
when I was like you. I want
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most of all, I want to relearn
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror
shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!

So show me, son,
how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile
once upon a time when I was like you.

What is this life if full of care…

La poesia “Leisure” (tempo libero/senza impegni) di William Henry Davies fu pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1911, ma il suo messaggio sembra ancora più pertinente nella società accelerata di oggi che mai prima.

Ascolta la lettura (con la stupenda composizione per pianoforte di Fabrizio Paterlini “Autumn Stories Week 8” nel sottofondo) e vedi se riesci ad inserire le parole mancanti nel testo sottostante.

Poi, se vuoi, scrivi la tua interpretazione della poesia oppure un semplice commento (in inglese naturalmente) e ti risponderò corregendo il tuo inglese, se necessario.

La versione completa della poesia si trova nei commenti, quindi stai attento a non guardare prima di aver completato l’esercizio!


What is this life if,  _______  of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as  _______  or cows.

No time to see, when  _______  we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of  _______  , like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And  _______  her feet, how they can dance.

No time to  _______  till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A  _______  life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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