I’m a poor audience for my memory.
She wants me to attend her voice nonstop,
but I fidget, fuss,
listen and don’t,
step out, come back, then leave again.
She wants all my time and attention.
She’s got no problem when I sleep.
The day’s a different matter, which upsets her.
She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,
stirs up events both important and un-,
turns my eyes to overlooked views,
peoples them with my dead.
In her stories I’m always younger.
Which is nice, but why always the same story.
Every mirror holds different news for me.
She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.
And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,
weighty, but easily forgotten.
Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.
Then comforts me, it could be worse.
She wants me to live only for her and with her.
Ideally in a dark, locked room,
but my plans still feature today’s sun,
clouds in progress, ongoing roads.
At times I get fed up with her.
I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.
Then she smiles at me with pity,
since she knows it would be the end of me too.
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
just three little words, like a flight’s three feathers.
The abyss doesn’t divide us.]
The abyss surrounds us.”
-Wisława Szymborska, from “Autotomy”, translated by S. Barańczak and C. Cavanagh, in Poems New and Collected