Wislawa Szymborska 2

June 24, 2013

Last February, 2005, I was in Poland. I loved my time there, and fell for the place, and began to read more about it, and more of its literature.

When I came back, I included a poem by Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska. Here is a poem of hers which hits up against the book I am just starting. It was published in the New Yorker in 2003.
Translation here is Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.


As long as nothing can be known for sure

(no signals have been picked up yet),

as long as Earth is still unlike
the nearer and more distant planets,

as long as theres neither hide nor hair
of other grasses graced by other winds,
of other treetops bearing other crowns,
other animals as well-grounded as our own,

as long as only the local echo
has been known to speak in syllables,

as long as we still havent heard the word
of better or worse mozarts,
platos, edisons, elsewhere,

as long as our inhuman crimes
are still committed only between humans,

as long as our kindness
is still incomparable,
peerless even in its imperfection,

as long as our heads packed with illusions
still pass for the only heads so packed,

as long as the roofs of our mouths alone
still raise voices to high heavens

lets act like very special guests of honour
at the district firemens ball,
dance to the beat of the local oompah band
and pretend that its the ball
to end all balls.

I cant speak for other
for me this is misery and happiness enough:

just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us