Author Archive for Wislawa Szymborska

Poem: "Hunger Camp at Jaslo"
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Poem: “Hunger Camp at Jaslo”

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Hunger Camp at Jaslo Write it. Write. In ordinary ink on ordinary paper: they were given no food, they all died of hunger. “All. How many? It’s a big meadow. How much grass for each one?” Write: I don’t know. History counts its skeletons in round numbers. A thousand and one remains a thousand, as […]

Poem: "Dreams"
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Poem: “Dreams”

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Dreams Despite the geologists’ knowledge and craft, mocking magnets, graphs, and maps— in a split second the dream piles before us mountains as stony as real life. And since mountains, then valleys, plains with perfect infrastructures. Without engineers, contractors, workers, bulldozers, diggers, or supplies— raging highways, instant bridges, thickly populated pop-up cities. Without directors, megaphones, […]

Poem: "Lot's Wife"
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Poem: “Lot’s Wife”

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Lot’s Wife They say I looked back out of curiosity. But I could have had other reasons. I looked back mourning my silver bowl. Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap. So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape of my husband Lot’s neck. From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead […]

Poem: "Pi"
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Poem: “Pi”

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Pi The admirable number pi: three point one four one. All the following digits are also just a start, five nine two because it never ends. It can’t be grasped, six five three five , at a glance, eight nine, by calculation, seven nine, through imagination, or even three two three eight in jest, or […]

Poem: "Tortures"
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Poem: “Tortures”

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Tortures Nothing has changed. The body is susceptible to pain, it must eat and breathe air and sleep, it has thin skin and blood right underneath, an adequate stock of teeth and nails, its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable. In tortures all this is taken into account. Nothing has changed. The body shudders […]

Poem: "Utopia"
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Poem: “Utopia”

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Utopia Island where all becomes clear. Solid ground beneath your feet. The only roads are those that offer access. Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs. The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here with branches disentangled since time immemorial. The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get […]

Poem: "On Death, without Exaggeration"
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Poem: “On Death, without Exaggeration”

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On Death, without Exaggeration It can’t take a joke, find a star, make a bridge. It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming, building ships, or baking cakes. In our planning for tomorrow, it has the final word, which is always beside the point. It can’t even get the things done that are part of its […]

Poem: "Children of Our Age"
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Poem: “Children of Our Age”

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Children of Our Age (Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh) We are children of our age, it’s a political age. All day long, all through the night, all affairs–yours, ours, theirs– are political affairs. Whether you like it or not, your genes have a political past, your skin, a political cast, your eyes, a […]

Poem: "The End and the Beginning"
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Poem: “The End and the Beginning”

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The End and the Beginning (Translation by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh) After every war someone has to tidy up. Things won’t pick themselves up, after all. Someone has to shove the rubble to the roadsides so the carts loaded with corpses can get by. Someone has to trudge through sludge and ashes, through the […]

Poem: "Cat in an Empty Apartment"
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Poem: “Cat in an Empty Apartment”

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Cat in an Empty Apartment Die—you can’t do that to a cat. Since what can a cat do in an empty apartment? Climb the walls? Rub up against the furniture? Nothing seems different here but nothing is the same. Nothing’s been moved but there’s more space. And at nighttime no lamps are lit. Footsteps on […]

Poem: "The Three Oddest Words"
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Poem: “The Three Oddest Words”

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The Three Oddest Words When I pronounce the word Future, the first syllable already belongs to the past. When I pronounce the word Silence, I destroy it. When I pronounce the word Nothing, I make something no non-being can hold. Wislawa Szymborska

Poem: "A Few Words on the Soul"
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Poem: “A Few Words on the Soul”

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A Few Words on the Soul (Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh) We have a soul at times. No one’s got it non-stop, for keeps. Day after day, year after year may pass without it. Sometimes it will settle for awhile only in childhood’s fears and raptures. Sometimes only in astonishment that we are […]