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Poem of the Day--Wislawa Szymborska

By John Published: April 13, 2010

Wislawa Szymborska, like Milosz, is a Nobel Prize winner. We remember the Holocaust today in Akron and this poem (Postwar Polish Poetry, University of California Press) captures well the futility of trying to explain the unexplainable.

Every Case

It could have happened.
It must have happened.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer by. Further away.
It happened not to you.

You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because you were alone. Because you were with others.
Because to the left. Because to the right.
Because it rained. Because there was shade.
Because the day was sunny.

Fortunately a forest was there.
Fortunately no trees were there.
Fortunately a rail, a hook, a bar, a brake,
an embrasure, a curve, a millimeter, a second.
Fortunately a razor was floating on water.

As a consequence, because, and yet, in spite.
What it would have been if a hand, a leg,
within an ace of, by a hair's breadth
saved from a combination of circumstances.

So you are here? Straight from an abrograted moment?
The net had just one mesh and you went through that mesh?
I am all surprise and all silence.
Listen,
how quickly your heart beats to me.

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