Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) livedthrough "our worst century so far", according to ElizabethBishop, including the brutal Nazi occupation of her homeland and fourdecades of Stalinist rule.
When she died February 1, Katha Pollitt wrote in the Nation:"For Szymborska, it is always the one who matters—transient, blind,foolish, the plaything of chance that it miscalls destiny, but also urgent,insistent, full of its own meaning, alive."
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .
So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.
by Wislawa Szymborska, from View With a Grain of Sand, 1996
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh