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Poem of the Day--Wislawa Szymborska

By John Published: April 16, 2010

I thought I'd close out our mini-series on Postwar Polish Poetry with another poem by Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska about the Holothurian, or Sea Cucumber.



In danger the holothurian splits itself in two:
it offers one self to be devoured by the world
and in its second self escapes.

Violently it divides itself into a doom and a salvation,
into a penalty and a recompense, into what was and what will be.

In the middle of the holothurian's body a chasm opens
and its edges immediately become alien to each other.

On the one edge, death, on the other, life.
Here despair, there, hope.

If there is a balance, the scales do not move.
If there is justice, here it is.

To die as much as necessary, without overstepping the bounds.
To grow again from a salvaged remnant.

We, too, know how to split ourselves
but only into the flesh and a broken whisper.
Into the flesh and poetry.

On one side the throat, on the other, laughter,
slight, quickly calming down.

Here a heavy heart, there non omnis moriar,
three little words only, like three little plumes ascending.

The chasm doesn't split us.
A chasm surrounds us.

       To the memory of Halina Poswiatowska



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