The Puddle

By Wisława Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

I remember well this childhood fear of mine.
I’d step around puddles,
especially the fresh ones, just after it rained.
For one of them might be bottomless,
even if it looked like all the rest.

One step and it would swallow me whole,
I would start ascending downward
and even deeper down,
toward the reflected clouds
and maybe even farther.

Then the puddle would dry,
closing over me,
trapping me forever—but where—
and with a scream that cannot reach the surface.

Only later did I come to understand:
not all misadventures
fit within the rules of nature
and even if they wanted to,
they could not happen.


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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