Wislawa Szymborska: Where Were You When I Needed You?


A Poem

By Wisława Szymborska

Nothingness unseamed itself for me too.

It turned itself wrong side out.

How on earth did I end up here—

head to toe among the planets,

without a clue how I used not to be.

O you, encountered here and loved here,

I can only guess, my arm on yours,

how much vacancy on that side went to make us,

how much silence there for one lone cricket here,

how much nonmeadow for a single sprig of sorrel,

and sun after darknesses in a drop of dew

as repayment—for what boundless droughts?

Starry willy-nilly! Local in reverse!

Stretched out in curvatures, weights, roughnesses, and motions!

Time out from infinity for endless sky!

Relief from nonspace in a shivering birch tree’s shape!

Now or never wind will stir a cloud,

since wind is exactly what won’t blow there.

And a beetle hits the trail in a witness’s dark suit,

testifying to the long wait for a short life.

And it so happened that I’m here with you.

And I really see nothing

usual in that.

—Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

“The world — whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world — it is astonishing.” – Wisława Szymborska (died February 11, 2012).


3 Comments on “Wislawa Szymborska: Where Were You When I Needed You?”

  1. […] first discovered Wislawa on the roy hamric journal here She won the Nobel Prize for literature in […]

  2. roy hamric says:


    I’m now following you, amigo. Interesting blog you have, and I know we have similar taste. Best, Roy

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