Thank-You Note

March 21, 2006 at 3:00 pm 2 comments

Wislawa Szymborska

Listen

I owe so much
to those I don’t love.

The relief as I agree
that someone else needs them more.

The happiness that I’m not
the wolf to their sheep.

The peace I feel with them,
the freedom —
love can neither give
nor take that.

I don’t wait for them,
as in window-to-door-and-back.
Almost as patient
as a sundial,
I understand
what love can’t.
and forgive
as love never would.

From a rendezvous to a letter
is just a few days or weeks,
not an eternity.

Trips with them always go smoothly,
concerts are heard,
cathedrals visited,
scenery is seen.

And when seven hills and rivers
come between us,
the hills and rivers
can be found on any map.

They deserve the credit
if I live in three dimensions,
in nonlyrical and nonrhetorical space
with a genuine, shifting horizon.

They themselves don’t realize
how much they hold in their empty hands.

“I don’t owe them a thing,”
would be love’s answer
to this open question.

Tr. from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Capturing the forgotten (moments, people, feelings, incidents). That is something Szymborska can do with such elegance.

This poem, for instance, thanks people who make life normal. Life is not always high drama and a torrent of emotions. For every garb in expensive fine silk, you need ten others in simple cotton. And making a perfect cotton dress needs an artist just as skilled, if not more.

[blackmamba]

Entry filed under: Black Mamba, Clare Cavanagh, English, Polish, Stanislaw Baranczak, Wislawa Szymborska. Tags: .

To One in Paradise Parting

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Falstaff  |  March 22, 2006 at 6:43 am

    Lovely. Szymborska does seem to specialise in this a bit, doesn’t she? Talking about what isn’t rather than what is? One of my favourite poems of hers is the one about a meeting at the train station that never happened. It’s a clever trick, and Szymborska is stunning enough of a poet to pull it off effortlessly.

    Reply
  • 2. The Black Mamba  |  March 22, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    agreed. the train station poem is very nice. In fact, its among the few I recorded, before deciding to post this one first :)

    Its a very good play on perspective, I think, just as with most of her other poems. Looking for things away from the limelight.

    Reply

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