Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Under a Certain Little Star

by Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity. 
My apologies to necessity in case I'm mistaken. 
Don't be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own. 
May the dead forgive me that their memory's but a flicker. 
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second. 
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first. 
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home. 
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger. 
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss. 
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning. 
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes. 
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water. 
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage, 
staring, motionless, always at the same spot, 
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed. 
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs. 
My apologies to large questions for small answers. 
Truth, do not pay me too much attention. 
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me. 
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil. 
Soul, don't blame me that I've got you so seldom. 
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere. 
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman. 
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me, 
since I am my own obstacle. 
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words, 
and then labor to make them light. 

                                        *           *            *

Jessica Greenbaum wrote an essay in Poetry about favorite poems, naming half a dozen of her own, including Under One Small Star by Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012). Later in the essay Greenbaum provided a link to a different translation (by Joanna Trzeciak) with the slightly different title Under a Certain Little Star. That is the version I reproduce here, with extra thanks to Jessica Greenbaum for introducing me to this astonishing poem.

photo © Andrzej Banaś