“Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil”

8 Feb

You may have heard that poet and Nobel Prize-winner Wislawa Szymborska passed away recently at the age of 88. I had never read her work before, but one of her poems in translation caught my eye, and I thought I would share it here.

Under a Certain Little Star
by Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I’m mistaken.
Don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory’s but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second.
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss.
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
staring, motionless, always at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me.
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil.
Soul, don’t blame me that I’ve got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
since I am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.

I imagine most of my readers can relate approximately as well as I can to the transgressions here — the pricked fingers and flowers carried home, the flickering memories of the dead, etc. My entire life, by some lights, could be considered a minuet record in the face of those calling out from the abyss. But this poem justifies it, somehow.

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One Response to ““Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil””

  1. JOANNE BOOTS February 8, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    i too identified with her and her poems. i thought it was because i (the ego) was polish, forgetting that greatness is universal.

    as usual you go so much beyond your gram. let that be the case with all my grandchildren. so far it is. i am lucky. love you love you love you sarah

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