15 March 2006

Wislawa Szymborska

[from Wislawa Szymborska's View with a Grain of Sand


In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two.
It abandons one self to a hungry world
and with the other self it flees.

It violently divides into doom and salvation,
retribution and reward, what has been and what will be.

An abyss appears in the middle of its body
between what instantly become two foreign shores.

Life on one shore, death on the other.
Here hope and there despair.

If there are scales, the pans don’t move.
If there is justice, this is it.

To die just as required, without excess.
To grow back just what’s needed from what’s left.

We, too, can divide ourselves, it’s true.
But only into flesh and a broken whisper.
Into flesh and poetry.

The throat on one side, laughter on the other,
quiet, quickly dying out.

Here the heavy heart, there non omnis moriar
just three little words, like a flight’s three feathers.

The abyss doesn’t divide us.
The abyss surrounds us.

         In memoriam Halina PoĊ›wiatowska

1 comment:

  1. Carol! I don't know who you are, but I've really enjoyed this poem. I was just reading a slightly different translation by fellow Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, along with his trans. of "A Great Number." The two poems are linked by the quote from Horace: "non omnis moriar."

    What do you think about the themes of survival in her poetry? Why does survival imagery resonate with so many people, regardless of how great or little their hardships have actually been? Any thoughts?

    Thanks for posting. Have a good weekend!