Under A Certain Little Star


by Wislawa Szymborska

I apologize to coincidence for calling it necessity.
I apologize to necessity just in case I’m mistaken.
Let happiness be not angry if I take it as my own.
Let the dead not remember they scarcely smolder in my memory.
I apologize to time for the muchness of the world overlooked per second.
I apologize to old love for regarding the new as the first.
Forgive me far-off wars for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me open wounds for pricking my finger.
I apologize to those who cry out of the depths for the minuet record.
I apologize to people at railway stations for still sleeping at five in the morning.
Pardon me hounded hope for laughing now and again.
Pardon me deserts for not rushing up with a spoonful of water.
And you O falcon, the same these many years,
in that same cage,
forever staring motionless at the same spot,
absolve me, even though you are but a stuffed bird.

I apologize to the tree cut down for four table legs.
I apologize to big questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much heed.
Solemnity, be magnanimous to me.
Endure, mystery of existence, that I might pluck out the threads from your veil.
Accuse me not O soul, of possessing you but seldom.
I apologize to everything that I cannot be everywhere.
I apologize to everyone that I cannot be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can justify me, because I myself am an obstacle to myself.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then later try hard to make them light.

Wislawa Szymborska


“For all their philosophical precision, intellectual playfulness, and emotional detachment, the poems of Wislawa Szymborska, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996, are much more than thought experiments in verse. That “the unthinkable / can be thought” is for her the “miracle” of poetry. A wit rather than a sage, she proclaims nothing and dictates less, teasing the reader with unsettling queries and suggestive contrariness…”
Parnassus Poetry Review

Me, I love her wit, her caustic humor, I love even her pessimism. How do you not love a poet who gives such advice to aspiring poets?
“Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”
“If you want to become a decent cobbler, it’s not enough to enthuse over human feet. You have to know your leather, your tools, pick the right pattern, and so forth. . . . It holds true for artistic creation too.”
“You need a new pen. The one you’re using makes a lot of mistakes. It must be foreign.”
and finally:
“It’s pleasant and rewarding to tell our acquaintances that the bardic spirit seized us on Friday at 2:45 p.m. and began whispering mysterious secrets in our ear with such ardor that we scarcely had time to take them down. But at home, behind closed doors, poets assiduously corrected, crossed out, and revised those otherworldly utterances. Spirits are fine and dandy, but even poetry has its prosaic side.”

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin

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