Almost since I read her for the first time I have been saying the Wislawa Szymborska is my favorite living poet. I read last night that she died early this month. I did not see an obit, but I get my daily NYTimes online and it is selected sections, no obits. For those who do not know of her, she was a Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1996. She is witty, ironic, feeling, political, personal and writes without pretense. Her poetry is never obscure. Here is one that is appropriate today.
Seen from Above
On a dirt road lies a dead beetle.
Three little pairs of legs carefully folded on his belly.
Instead of death's chaos -- neatness and order.
The horror of this site is mitigated,
the range strictly local, from wenchgrass to spearmint,.
Sadness is not contagious.
The sky is blue.
For our peace of mind, the death seemingly shallower,
animals do not pass away, but simply die.
losing -- we wish to believe -- less of awareness and the world,
leaving -- it seems to us -- a stage less tragic.
Their humble little souls do not haunt our dreams,
they keep their distance,
know their place.
So here lies the dead beetle on the road,
glistens unlamented when the sun hits.
A glance at him is as good as a thought,
he looks as though nothing important has befallen him.
What's important is valid, supposedly, for us.
For just our life, for just our death,
a death that enjoys an extorted primacy.
I am reading a wonderful anthology of poetry which contains this and other Szymboska poems among poems from many countries around the world. Czeslaw Milosz has collected and the poems and introduces them. A Book of Luminous Things is the perfect bedside companion.
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