“Possibilities” by Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

By Wislawa Szymborska, From Nothing Twice, 1997. Wydawnctwo Literackie.
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh. Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

2 thoughts on ““Possibilities” by Wislawa Szymborska

  1. William Grimes

    I prefer reading Wislawa Szymborska in translation to almost any other poet in translation (well there are so many poets that I love in translation that this is more than a stretch) because the translators are marvelous, and I know from interviews that they worked closely with Szymborska so that her humor, in all its “wickedness”, is fully on display in English. I am so grateful to the Nobel Committee for recognizing her work, and thus bringing my attention to the work of yet another extraordinary Polish poet. The latest publication of her poems titled MAP (and printed posthumously) is a treasure trove of her wonderful work, that I hope people will explore. As with other world class poets (she really cannot be confined to Poland), it’s sad that she is not around to add even more poems. As odd as it may sound, I hope readers take the time to look for pictures of Szymborska. Her face is so alive, so beautiful, her eyes so filled with devilment. For me, all of her poems are revelations, as is her smile, The smile that she wore so brilliantly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Every so often, a reader will offer a comment that is itself such a rare beautiful bluebird of a poem that I just close my eyes and smile.
      This, is one of those comments.
      Thank you, Will.

      You know something? I have not read a single poem by Szymborska that I did not care for or feel some emotional response toward. She may be the only one I can say that about. (Except maybe Ellen Bass?) And to realize that it is the translations themselves that invoke these emotions is even more surprising.

      Oh and her eyes…how they sparkled.


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