Monday, October 18, 2010

A Poem About Everything

It's been a while since I posted a poem. This one is by Wislawa Szymborska, the Poet Laureate of Poland and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. Her new collection is titled Here (© 2010 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). It is so wonderful that several times while reading it I've wanted to jump out of my chair and...continue jumping. This is one of the poems that made me feel that way. Perhaps you'll jump up, too.

A Hard Life with Memory
by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

I'm a poor audience for my memory.
She wants me to attend her voice nonstop,
but I fidget, fuss,
listen and don't,
step out, come back, then leave again.

She wants all my time and attention.
She's got no problem when I sleep.
The day's a different matter, which upsets her.

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,
stirs up events both important and un-,
turns my eyes to overlooked views,
peoples them with my dead.

In her stories I'm always younger.
Which is nice, but why always the same story.
Every mirror holds different news for me.

She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.
And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,
weighty, but easily forgotten.
Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.
Then comforts me, it could be worse.

She wants me to live only for her and with her.
Ideally in a dark, locked room,
but my plans still feature today's sun,
clouds in progress, ongoing roads.

At times I get fed up with her.
I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.
Then she smiles at me with pity,
since she knows it would be the end of me too.


  1. She is so wonderful. I want to read everything she's ever written now.