Little Girl Pulling Off the Tablecloth

By Wisława Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

She’s been in this world for over a year,
but not everything in this world has been examined
and brought under control.

Now being probed are things
that cannot move on their own.

They need to be nudged,
slid, shoved,
moved from one place to another.

Not all of them want it: not the wardrobe,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.

But already the cloth on the stubborn table
—when firmly grasped by the hem—
reveals an urge to roam.

On the tablecloth, glasses, plates,
a creamer, spoons, a bowl
all quiver in anticipation.

It’s interesting,
what move will they make,
as they teeter on the edge:
a journey across the ceiling?
a flight around the lamp?
a leap to the windowsill, and from there to the tree?

Sir Newton has nothing to do with this yet.
Let him peer down from heaven and wave his arms.

This test must be carried out.
And it will be.


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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