I am sad to hear that Wisława Szymborska, one of my favorite poets, has died.
(It is pronounced "Vees-wah-vah Shim-bor-ska". The crossed "L" always makes a "w" sound in Polish. The "w" always makes a "v" sound. The "sz" always makes a "sh" sound.)
I used to see her sweeping her front walk when I lived in Krakow. She was just normal. Except the inside of her brain was not.
But this was three years before she won the Nobel Prize, and I was back in the U.S. when she did, and I always wondered if that meant she couldn't just sweep her walk anymore. It must be wretched to be famous if you are a poet. I think most poets are ingoing rather than outgoing. I guess you get the occasional Lord Byron, but he was more like an actor, really. I bet most poets just want to take their Nobel Prize and slink on home.
Szymborska's poems are deceptively simple. Here is one of them:
Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.
Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.
No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.
One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.
The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?
Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.
With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.