The Puddle

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.

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