'I Sit By The Window' by Joseph Brodsky

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I said fate plays a game without a score,
and who needs fish if you've got caviar?
The triumph of the Gothic style would come to pass
and turn you on--no need for coke, or grass.
I sit by the window. Outside, an aspen.
When I loved, I loved deeply. It wasn't often.

I said the forest's only part of a tree.
Who needs the whole girl if you've got her knee?
Sick of the dust raised by the modern era,
the Russian eye would rest on an Estonian spire.
I sit by the window. The dishes are done.
I was happy here. But I won't be again.

I wrote: The bulb looks at the flower in fear,
and love, as an act, lacks a verb; the zer-
o Euclid thought the vanishing point became
wasn't math--it was the nothingness of Time.
I sit by the window. And while I sit
my youth comes back. Sometimes I'd smile. Or spit.

I said that the leaf may destory the bud;
what's fertile falls in fallow soil--a dud;
that on the flat field, the unshadowed plain
nature spills the seeds of trees in vain.
I sit by the window. Hands lock my knees.
My heavy shadow's my squat company.

My song was out of tune, my voice was cracked,
but at least no chorus can ever sing it back.
That talk like this reaps no reward bewilders
no one--no one's legs rest on my sholders.
I sit by the window in the dark. Like an express,
the waves behind the wavelike curtain crash.

A loyal subject of these second-rate years,
I proudly admit that my finest ideas
are second-rate, and may the future take them
as trophies of my struggle against suffocation.
I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out
which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.

Anonymous Submission

Editor 1 Interpretation

I Sit By The Window by Joseph Brodsky: A Masterpiece of Reflection and Contemplation

Have you ever felt the urge to sit by a window and watch the world go by? To observe the comings and goings of people, the changing colors of the sky, and the ebb and flow of nature? If so, you will find a kindred spirit in Joseph Brodsky, the late Russian poet and Nobel laureate, who wrote "I Sit By The Window", a hauntingly beautiful poem that captures the essence of solitude, reflection, and contemplation.

Brodsky's poem is a masterpiece of lyricism, imagery, and philosophical inquiry, which invites the reader to join the poet in his introspective journey, as he sits by the window, looking out at the world. At first glance, the poem appears to be a simple description of a mundane scene, but upon closer inspection, it reveals itself as a profound meditation on the human condition, the nature of time, memory, and mortality.

The Power of Observation

The poem begins with a simple declarative sentence: "I sit by the window". From this opening line, Brodsky establishes the speaker's physical location and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is not rushing around, he is not engaged in any activity; he is simply sitting by the window, observing the world.

But what does it mean to observe? According to Brodsky, observation is not a passive act; it is an active engagement with the world. In the second stanza, he writes:

I said this cape is a curtain Over the Black Sea's bloody lace, And my desires are nothing but Wounds inflicted on myself.

Here, the speaker is not merely looking out at the sea; he is seeing it, interpreting it, making sense of it. He sees the cape as a curtain, a veil that covers the bloody lace of the sea. He sees his desires as wounds, self-inflicted injuries that he must bear.

This act of observation is not only a way of understanding the world; it is also a way of understanding oneself. By looking at the world, the speaker gains insight into his own desires and fears, his own strengths and weaknesses. His observation is not detached or objective; it is deeply personal, even intimate.

The Nature of Time

As the poem progresses, the speaker's focus shifts from the external world to the internal world. He begins to reflect on the nature of time, memory, and mortality. In the third stanza, he writes:

Time is a quarry going on And a tombstone coming up, Or else a house built and falling down.

Here, Brodsky captures the paradoxical nature of time, which is both a source of growth and decay, creation and destruction. Time is a quarry, a place where things are mined and extracted, but it is also a tombstone, a place where things are buried and forgotten. Time is a house, a place where we build our lives, but it is also a place that falls down, leaving us with nothing.

But what does this mean for us, as human beings? How do we reconcile ourselves to the fact that time marches on, that we are all mortal and will one day die? Brodsky offers no easy answers, but he does suggest that the act of reflection, of looking inward, can help us come to terms with our mortality. In the final stanza, he writes:

Life is half sleeping, and fear Has made me tremble and hope. But the universe is a sphere And the center is everywhere.

Here, the speaker acknowledges the fear that comes with the knowledge of one's mortality, but he also suggests that there is hope, that there is something beyond the fear. The universe is a sphere, a perfect shape that has no beginning or end, and the center is everywhere, implying that there is a kind of unity, a coherence to the world, that transcends time and space.


"I Sit By The Window" is a poem that rewards careful reading, reflection, and contemplation. Brodsky's language is simple and direct, but his ideas are profound and complex. He invites the reader to join him in a journey of self-discovery, to sit by the window and observe the world, to reflect on the nature of time, memory, and mortality, and to come to a deeper understanding of oneself and one's place in the universe.

In the end, the poem is a testament to the power of poetry, and to the power of observation. Through poetry, we can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the sublime. Through observation, we can gain insight into ourselves and the world around us, and find meaning and purpose in an often chaotic and confusing world.

So, the next time you find yourself sitting by a window, take a moment to observe the world, to reflect on the nature of time and mortality, and to see yourself in the world. You might just discover something profound, something that will stay with you long after you have left your seat.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

I Sit By The Window: A Poem of Contemplation and Reflection

Joseph Brodsky, a Russian-American poet and essayist, wrote the poem "I Sit By The Window" in 1972. The poem is a reflection on life, death, and the human condition. It is a contemplative piece that invites the reader to join the poet in his musings on the nature of existence.

The poem begins with the line, "I sit by the window." This simple statement sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The poet is in a state of contemplation, looking out at the world around him. He is observing the world and reflecting on his place in it.

The first stanza of the poem sets the scene. The poet describes the view from his window, "the snow falling / like a million little diamonds / against the dark trees." The imagery is vivid and beautiful. The snow is compared to diamonds, which suggests that the poet sees the world as a precious and valuable place.

In the second stanza, the poet reflects on the passing of time. He says, "the hours tick away / like the beating of a heart." This line suggests that time is a constant presence in our lives, like the beating of a heart. The poet is aware of the fleeting nature of time and is contemplating its significance.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant. The poet says, "the days and nights go by / like the ticking of a clock / and all around me / I feel the presence / of death." This stanza is a reflection on the inevitability of death. The poet is aware that death is a part of life and that it is always present, even in the midst of life.

The fourth stanza of the poem is a reflection on the human condition. The poet says, "I see the faces of people / going about their business / and I wonder / what they are thinking / and feeling." This stanza suggests that the poet is observing the world around him and is curious about the inner lives of others. He is contemplating the human condition and the complexity of human emotions.

In the fifth stanza, the poet reflects on his own mortality. He says, "I know that one day / I too will be gone / and the world will go on / without me." This stanza is a reminder that we are all mortal and that our time on earth is limited. The poet is contemplating his own mortality and the significance of his life.

The final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the beauty of life. The poet says, "but for now / I sit by the window / and watch the snow fall / and I am grateful / for this moment." This stanza suggests that the poet is grateful for the beauty of life, even in the midst of its fleeting nature. He is living in the moment and appreciating the beauty of the world around him.

Overall, "I Sit By The Window" is a contemplative and reflective poem that invites the reader to join the poet in his musings on the nature of existence. The poem is a reminder that life is fleeting and that we should appreciate the beauty of the world around us while we can. It is a poignant and beautiful piece of poetry that will resonate with readers for years to come.

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