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A Few Words on the Soul

Wislawa Szymborska

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for a while
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare CavanaghWisława-Szymborska-02

Yesterday I stumbled across this poem by an author I didn’t know. I was really touched by its beauty and simplicity so I thought I’d share it.

The part about joy and sorrow not being two different feelings, in particular, and the theme of silence have been a huge part of my life and thoughts in this last month of pregnancy, in which I’ve been constantly sick yet in awe of the beautiful creature I’m waiting to meet, and in which silence surrounds me as I spend my days alone, but never alone, as the snow keeps falling outside-even though it’s spring.

Sorry about the run-on sentence.  I’m Italian, we can’t help it…

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