A Note

By Wisława Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Life—the only way,
to grow over with leaves,
catch a breath on the sand,
soar on wings;

to be a dog,
or to pet one;

to tell pain apart
from everything that isn’t pain;

to fit into events,
to vanish in vistas,
to search for the minutest of errors.

It’s an excellent opportunity
to recall for a bit
what was talked about
with the lamp turned off;

and if only once
to trip over a rock,
to get drenched in the rain,
to lose keys in the grass,
to follow a spark on the wind;

always not knowing
something important.


Joanna Trzeciak is Associate Professor of Russian and Translation Studies at Kent State University. Her research concerns Nabokov as a self-translating author. Her translations of Polish and Russian literature have appeared in The New York TimesThe New YorkerTimes Literary SupplementHarper’sThe AtlanticParis ReviewField, and New Ohio Review, among others. Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska (W.W. Norton, 2001), was awarded the Heldt Translation Prize. Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Różewicz (W.W. Norton, 2011) was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize, and is the winner of the Found in Translation Award and the AATSEEL Award for Best Scholarly Translation.

Originally appeared in NOR 5

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