by Wislawa Szymborska, on Nadi’s birthday

October 3, 2014 § Leave a comment


It’s come to pass that one sunny morning
I am sitting under a tree 
on a river-bank.
It’s a trivial event 
history will not record.
It’s not like wars or treaties 
whose causes await scrutiny 
nor memorable assassinations of tyrants.

And yet I am sitting on a river-bank, that’s a fact.
And since I am here, 
I must have come from somewhere, 
and earlier
I must have been around many places,
just like conquerors of kingdoms
before they set sail.

The fleeting moment also has its past, 
its Friday before Saturday,
May proceeding June. 
It’s horizons are as real
as they are in commanders’ field-glasses.

This tree — a poplar with ancient roots.
The river is Raba: flowing since before yesterday.
The path is through the thickets: made not the day before.
To blow away the clouds
the wind must first have blown them here. 
And though nothing significant is happening nearby,
the world is not therefore the poorer in details, 
the less justified, less well defined 
then when it was being conquered by nomadic people.

Silence is not confined to secret plots,
the pageant of causes to coronations. 
Pebbles by-passed on the beach can be as rounded 
as the anniversaries of insurrections.

The embroidery of circumstance is also twisty and thick.
The ant’s seam in the grass.
The grass sewn into the earth.
The pattern of a wave darned by a stick.

It just so happens that I am and I look.
Nearby a white butterfly flutters in the air 
with wings that are wholly his 
and the shadow that flies over my hands
is not other, not anyone’s, but his very own.

Seeing such sights I lose my certainty 
that what is important 
is more important than the unimportant.


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