Francisco Goya painted this image on a wall in his house around 1820, but it could have been painted yesterday, or today, or tomorrow. Two men beat each other senseless while sinking to their own doom in a bog of quicksand. You can choose your antagonists from a list that remains endless: British and French, Israelis and Palestinians, Protestants and Catholics, Conservatives and Liberals, Sunnis and Shiites, Democrats and Republicans, etcetera.
Marina Tsvetaeva wrote this poem in 1915, in the second year of the First World War, but it could have been written yesterday, today, or tomorrow about an endless list of anywheres: Syria, Korea, Yemen, Columbia, Iran, China, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the USA, etcetera — forever.
I know the truth. Forget all other truths. No need for people anywhere on this earth to struggle. For what? Poets? Lovers? Generals?
Look: it is evening, Look: it is nearly night. The wind is level now, the air is wet with dew. Soon all of us will sleep Beneath the earth, We, who never let each other Sleep above it.
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Twilight falls over the city and soon night will arrive in a swarm of stars. A woman descends the stairs toward the river and the Boatman who awaits his passengers. She can’t hear the voices of the crowd of souls that surround her, nor can she see them. She feels alone, but she is not afraid.
Who is she? She could be anyone: an office worker in an insurance company. A soccer mom from the suburbs. An off-duty police officer. A tourist from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, she could be Everyone, even the artist who painted her.
To the Boatman, her identity is not important. He waits for her with the same indifferent patience as he waits for everyone else. Does she have enough coins in her purse to pay for the voyage? Sufficient coins or not, he will wait.