Friday, February 3, 2012

"Nothing seems different here, / but nothing is the same."

My favorite poet of all time, Wisława Szymborska, died this week. If you don't know her- give her poetry a chance (give her a chance even if you don't like poetry. She'll break your heart and then piece it back together again. I promise).

Here's a heart breaker as well as a eulogy.

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Die—you can’t do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there’s more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they’re new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn’t start
at its usual time.
Something doesn’t happen 
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared
and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken,
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
Just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle toward him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.

Her best translators are the co-translators Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh and so start with the collection, "View With a Grain of Sand." Seriously.


  1. Sorry to hear you lost her. I know how dear her work is to you. This poem really did break my heart--beautiful and true.

  2. Thanks for making me cry at work today.



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