Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unfathomable Life

Several months ago, I wrote down a poem in my notebook thinking that one day I might want to post it. I would look at it from time to time, but the right time never seemed to appear. I liked the poem, yet I had questions about it. I looked at it again a few days ago. Still not the right time. Well, unfortunately, today seems to be the right day.

"A Contribution to Statistics"

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better

doubting every step
--nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
--as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
--four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
--sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
--forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something

capable of happiness
--twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
--half at least,

when forced by circumstances
--better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
--just a couple more than wise before it,

taking only things from life
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
sooner or later,

--thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding

worthy of compassion

--a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

~ Wislawa Szymborska

Ms. Szymborska passed away today at the age of 88, at her home in Krakau, Poland. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, she was referred to as "the Mozart of poetry" by the Nobel committee. Last year, she was awarded Poland's highest distinction, The Order of the White Eagle. I like that. That sounds like a fine honor to have bestowed upon a person.

Mortal?  It would seem so. But, I am hoping she is just out of sight, still here, still moving,  "Into unfathomable life." *

* From her poem, "Utopia."


  1. Beautiful words Teresa and fitting for Ms. S-

  2. It's fitting that Ms. Szymborska was known as the "Mozart of poetry".

    A beautiful eulogy, Teresa.

  3. Oh Dear. You Humble Me Teresa.I Knew Nothing Of Ms. Szymborska.And Yet, I hope, I can be able to admire without envy.What A fine person she was......& ,i hope somewhere, still is......

  4. Taken as a whole I can see why you didn't know when the time was right to share this poem with us.
    Today was. She will be missed.

  5. Dear Teresa.
    In 1998, a friend of mine, a gifted published poet, gave me Szymborska's book "Poems New and Collected: 1957-1997." No matter when I have opened this volume of poetry or what poem I have read, she always speaks to me.

    The first stanza of her poem "Nothing Twice" says what she may be thinking wherever her spirit now abides:

    "Nothing can ever happen twice,
    In consequence, the sorry fact is
    that we arrive here improvised
    and leave without the chance to practice."

    Thank you for honoring her with your eulogy.


  6. Sad that she passed without me ever hearing about her until after she was gone. You are like a poetry teacher for me, of which I know very little. I think one day I really need a Nook or a Kindle--LOL! ;)

  7. There is a sweet knowing humor in this poem, for all of its sad "statistics." I'll bet she looks and sounds like she'd have been an interesting and fun person to know. Thanks for introducing us to her and for noting her passing.

  8. Rita, I have a Kindle. The only thing wrong with it is you can't write in it. Thank gawd my kids gave me a iPad!

  9. Ms Szymborska certainly had a sense of humor.I'm not familiar with her. Thanks for introducing the elder poet. -- barbara

  10. Sad to lose anyone whose thoughts shook the world.I like the Mozart idea with her works.To me it is an above standard of class.

  11. I hope she counted herself among the number looking at life with an unflinching eye.

    I now feel that I should look into her more fully, as it is strange how close her last name is to my own...


    1. Pearl, Like Krakau/Krakow, her name has slightly different spellings. Let us know if you run across any family connections. I like your observation regarding her unflinching eye....

      I left a little message for you over at Tony's Hebden Bridge. :)

  12. Thank you for this touching poem, and to learn of a wonderful woman who has gone but left us with her poetry. I will learn more about her, now that I have met her. It's a perfect poem for today. Godspeed to her.

  13. This is such a wonderful, thought-provoking poem, Teresa. I will undoubtedly return and read it a few more times. It's interesting to figure out where one stands among these percentages.

  14. Hello Teresa:
    What a very fitting tribute to this remarkable woman. The poem is so beautifully written, a beguiling mix of humour, passion and tenderness. And, what a marvellous legacy she has left to us all in her poetry.

  15. Thank you all for your contributions to this post honoring this great poet. I only discovered her last year, then posted about one of her poems, "Utopia," in October: "Swimming in the Sea of Dreams." Her poetry has given me much food for thought.

    A special thank you to Pamela and her beautiful dog, Edward, for visiting my blog.

  16. Rita is are like a poetry teacher. I enjoyed this poem so much. And I'm quite certain that she is "...just out of sight. Still here."

  17. She was always one of my favorites, and will remain so. I feel that I am one of the appreciative statistics among her followers.

  18. Another poet I hadn't yet come across Teresa, she looks beautiful in both your photos. The Order of the White Eagle is such a great title for such a magician of words. A very clever poem with humour and she was one of the 'twenty something..' going off the lovely expression she holds on both pictures!

    (ps. I've left a little reply to your lovely comment today on my blog) x

    1. Yes, the twenty-something. I think she has such a gentle countenance.

  19. WOW OR WOw as ee cummings would say. I was not familiar with this poem or poet. Teresa, have you spent your life in a library? Never knew anyone so widely and well read...

  20. A life well lived. so much to consider in her words. R.I.P.