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[personal profile] marycrawford
Wislawa Szymborska died yesterday. She was 88, she won the Nobel prize for literature, and was one of my favorite poets in any language.

I will now revert to the present tense, because her poems have not died. They are thoughtful, funny, delicate, mordant or gentle, and very precise but not fussy. They are poems about dinosaurs, about terrorists, about the soul, about losing your umbrella in the tram.

This is one of my favorites:

Cat in an empty apartment

Dying - you wouldn't do that to a cat.
For what is a cat to do
in an empty apartment?
Climb up the walls?
Brush up against the furniture?
Nothing here seems changed,
and yet something has changed.
Nothing has been moved,
and yet there's more room.
And in the evenings the lamp is not on.

One hears footsteps on the stairs,
but they're not the same.
Neither is the hand
that puts a fish on the plate.

Something here isn't starting
at its usual time.
Something here isn't happening
as it should.
Somebody has been here and has been,
and then has suddenly disappeared
and now is stubbornly absent.

All the closets have been scanned
and all the shelves run through.
Slipping under the carpet and checking came to nothing.
The rule has even been broken and all the papers scattered.
What else is there to do?
Sleep and wait.

Just let him come back,
let him show up.
Then he'll find out
that you don't do that to a cat.
Going toward him
faking reluctance,
on very offended paws.
And no jumping, purring at first.

Translated by Joanna Trzeciak, from this archived page, where you can read the original poem in Polish too, as well as another English translation, but I think the one by Joanna is more true to the original.

August 2015

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