Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1995
is one of the most popular Polish poets. Her English-language
publications include Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by
Wislawa Szymborska (1981). The following selection will appear in the
book View with a Grain of Sand, which will be published by Harcourt
Brace this year.
See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape -
our century's hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How easily it pounces, tracks us down.
It's not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won't sap its strength; it feeds it.
One religion or another -
whatever gets ready, in position.
One fatherland or another -
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Its face twisted in grimace
of erotic ecstasy.
Oh these other feelings,
Since when does brotherhood
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred's got just what it takes.
Gifted, diligent, hard-working.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?
Let's face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fires' glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.
Hatred is a master of contrast:
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all it never tires
of its leitmotif - the impeccable executioner
towering over his soiled victim.
It's always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait a while, it will.
They say it's blind. Blind?
It's got a sniper's keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.
Translated from the Polish
by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
Artwork: Ewa C. Pawlak
Last update: April 28, 1995
Page layout: Zbigniew J. Pasek