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Best Famous Wislawa Szymborska Poems

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by Wislawa Szymborska |

A Large Number

 Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is the way it's always been:
bad with large numbers.
It is still moved by particularity.
It flits about the darkness like a flashlight beam,
disclosing only random faces,
while the rest go blindly by,
unthought of, unpitied.
Not even a Dante could have stopped that.
So what do you do when you're not,
even with all the muses on your side?

Non omnis moriar—a premature worry.
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It never has been, and even less so now.
I select by rejecting, for there's no other way,
but what I reject, is more numerous,
more dense, more intrusive than ever.
At the cost of untold losses—a poem, a sigh.
I reply with a whisper to a thunderous calling.
How much I am silent about I can't say.
A mouse at the foot of mother mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few lines of claws in the sand.

My dreams—even they are not as populous as they should be.
There is more solitude in them than crowds or clamor.
Sometimes someone long dead will drop by for a bit.
A single hand turns a knob.
Annexes of echo overgrow the empty house.
I run from the threshold down into the quiet
valley seemingly no one's—an anachronism by now.

Where does all this space still in me come from—
that I don't know.


by Wislawa Szymborska |

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 by comparison 
four six to anything 
two six four three in the world. 
The longest snake on earth ends at thirty-odd feet.
Same goes for fairy tale snakes, though they make it a little longer.
The caravan of digits that is pi
does not stop at the edge of the page,
but runs off the table and into the air,
over the wall, a leaf, a bird's nest, the clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bloatedness and bottomlessness.
Oh how short, all but mouse-like is the comet's tail!
How frail is a ray of starlight, bending in any old space!
Meanwhile two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size
the year nineteen hundred and seventy-three sixth floor
number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade and a code,
in which we find how blithe the trostle sings!
and please remain calm,
and heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not pi, that won't happen,
it still has an okay five,
and quite a fine eight,
and all but final seven,
prodding and prodding a plodding eternity
to last.


by Wislawa Szymborska |

Still

 In sealed box cars travel
names across the land,
and how far they will travel so,
and will they ever get out,
don't ask, I won't say, I don't know.

The name Nathan strikes fist against wall,
the name Isaac, demented, sings,
the name Sarah calls out for water for
the name Aaron that's dying of thirst.

Don't jump while it's moving, name David.
You're a name that dooms to defeat,
given to no one, and homeless,
too heavy to bear in this land.

Let your son have a Slavic name,
for here they count hairs on the head,
for here they tell good from evil
by names and by eyelids' shape.

Don't jump while it's moving. Your son will be Lech.
Don't jump while it's moving. Not time yet.
Don't jump. The night echoes like laughter
mocking clatter of wheels upon tracks.

A cloud made of people moved over the land,
a big cloud gives a small rain, one tear,
a small rain—one tear, a dry season.
Tracks lead off into black forest.

Cor-rect, cor-rect clicks the wheel. Gladeless forest.
Cor-rect, cor-rect. Through the forest a convoy of clamors.
Cor-rect, cor-rect. Awakened in the night I hear
cor-rect, cor-rect, crash of silence on silence.


by Wislawa Szymborska |

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 as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it's just the earth that's grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall. 

Nothing has changed. It's just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds. 

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.


by Wislawa Szymborska |

Going Home

 He came home. Said nothing. 
It was clear, though, that something had gone wrong. 
He lay down fully dressed. 
Pulled the blanket over his head. 
Tucked up his knees. 
He's nearly forty, but not at the moment. 
He exists just as he did inside his mother's womb, 
clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness. 
Tomorrow he'll give a lecture 
on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics. 
For now, though, he has curled up and gone to sleep.


by Wislawa Szymborska |

Some Like Poetry

 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 though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read, 
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody's place in the line.

We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning.
They sang with their mouths full of earth.
"A lovely song of how war strikes straight
at the heart." Write: how silent.
"Yes."