The End and the Beginning

By Wisława Szymborska 1923–2012 Wisława Szymborska

Translated By Joanna Trzeciak

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska, “The End and the Beginning” from Miracle Fair, translated by Joanna Trzeciak. Copyright © 2001 by Joanna Trzeciak. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: Miracle Fair: selected poems of Wisława Szymborska (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2001)

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Poet Wisława Szymborska 1923–2012

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Holidays Memorial Day

 Wisława  Szymborska

Biography

Well-known in her native Poland, Wisława Szymborska received international recognition when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. In awarding the prize, the Academy praised her “poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” Collections of her poems that have been translated into English include People on a Bridge (1990), View with a . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Poland

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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