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NaPoWriMo – April 22

Today,  Earth Day, two poems by Szymborska, the first, offered by one of our newer Members, Alicia Hoffman, the second by  Deborah Cornaire who will be joining.

The Ball

As long as nothing can be known for sure

(no signals have been picked up yet),

as long as Earth is still unlike

the nearer and more distant planets,

as long as there’s neither hide nor hair

of other grasses graced by other winds,

of other treetops bearing other crowns,

other animals as well-grounded as our own,

as long as only the local echo

has been known to speak in syllables,

as long as we still haven’t heard word

of better or worse mozarts,

platos, edisons somewhere,

as long as our inhuman crimes

are still committed only between humans,

as long as our kindness

is still incomparable,

peerless even in its imperfection,

as long as our heads packed with illusions

still pass for the only heads so packed,

as long as the roofs of our mouths alone

still raise voices to high heavens–

let’s act like very special guests of honor

at the district-firemen’s ball

dance to the beat of the local oompah band,

and pretend that it’s the ball

to end all balls.

I can’t speak for others–

for me this is

misery and happiness enough:

just this sleepy backwater

where even the stars have time to burn

while winking at us



–Wislawa Szymborska  (translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

“This poem, even in translation, does everything I love in a poem. I love its repetition and rhythm. It is simple, but contains such depth. Also, I agree whole-heartedly with its sentiment. “~Alicia Hoffman


Under One Small Star

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.

My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.

Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.

May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.

My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.

My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.

Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.

Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.

I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.

I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.

Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.

Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.

And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,

your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,

forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.

My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.

My apologies to great questions for small answers.

Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.

Dignity, please be magnanimous.

Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.

Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.

My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.

My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man.

I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,

since I myself stand in my own way.

Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,

then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

—  Wislawa Szymborska ((translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

“it is beautiful b/c all of our actions have both good and bad and she embraces this.”Deborah Cornaire:


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