Time to tan the knees.

Certain philosophical questions are probably hard to focus on when you are lying on the beach trying to get a suntan. I remember a Peace Corps ad on TV that showed a couple slathered with oil and doing nothing under the sun, seemingly oblivious to their radio propped in the sand and telling the news about people suffering in a third-world country.

If you are sitting up and looking out at the ocean, you might appear to be meditating, or praying, so maybe no one would try to make you feel guilty. It’s been three years since I was on a beach warm enough to expose much skin, and I wouldn’t feel bad at all about soaking up some summer in that manner.

Well, none of this applies directly to the poem I am sharing today. I just love this lighthearted look at how we humans are.


The soul on the beach
studies a textbook of philosophy.
The soul asks the body:
Who bound us together?
The body says:
Time to tan the knees.

The soul asks the body:
Is it true
that we do not really exist?

The body says:
I’m tanning my knees.

The soul asks the body,
Where will the dying begin,
in you or in me?
The body laughed,
It tanned its knees.

~ Anna Swir (1909-1984), Polish poet,

translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan


4 thoughts on “Time to tan the knees.

  1. This poem made me laugh along with the body. However, there will be no tanning of my knees, as my skin does not like the sun. But there will be sun on my blue jeans covering my knees. šŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like that! That’s the kind of modern poetry that I find very appealing. It’s direct, clear, unique. When I read a really clever idea poem like that, I always think, ‘Darn! Why didn’t I think of that first!’ haha šŸ™‚ Personally, I think the soul begins its death first, in the womb. The human body, it seems to me, is living and growing and not-dying (generally) until late teens. Then it’s a slow downhill slide.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Bible says that “The soul that sins, it shall die.” In the womb the soul is not rebelling against God so I don’t believe that its death begins then. I suppose you are referring to the Calvinist idea that we start out dead because of Adam’s sin, but we don’t actually enter that death until we join personally with it later on.


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