Identification

Original Artwork Michele Voltaire Marcelin

It’s good you came—she says.
You heard a plane crashed on Thursday?
Well so they came to see me
about it.
The story is he was on the passenger list.
So what, he might have changed his mind.
They gave me some pills so I wouldn’t fall apart.
Then they showed me I don’t know who.
All black, burned except one hand.
A scrap of shirt, a watch, a wedding ring.
I got furious, that can’t be him.
He wouldn’t do that to me, look like that.
The stores are bursting with those shirts.
The watch is just a regular old watch.
And our names on that ring,
they’re only the most ordinary names.
It’s good you came. Sit here beside me.
He really was supposed to get back Thursday.
But we’ve got so many Thursdays left this year.
I’ll put the kettle on for tea.
I’ll wash my hair, then what,
try to wake up from all this.
It’s good you came, since it was cold there,
and him just in some rubber sleeping bag,
him, I mean, you know, that unlucky man.
I’ll put the Thursday on, wash the tea,
since our names are completely ordinary— Wislawa Szymborska

Readers have often noted the wit, irony, and deceptive simplicity of Szymborska’s poetry which examines domestic details and occasions against the backdrop of history.  Poet Charles Simic described Szymborska as “one of the most readable” of contemporary poets. This had as much to do with the customary brevity of her free verse as her straightforward conversational style. The Polish poet was born in 1923  and died in 2012 at the age of 88.  Szymborska won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.  During her Nobel speech, Szymborska joked about the life of poets.

“Great films can be made of the lives of scientists and artists”, she said, “but poets offer far less promising material. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic,’ she said. ‘Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines, only to cross out one of them 15 minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens. Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?’”

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