A Friend Was Feeling Down. I Read Her A Poem.

A dear friend called. She was feeling a bit depressed, aggravated, like life was not being fair on this particular day. “On this particular decade,” I think she would interject. I listened. I empathized.

When I ran out of supportive words, I offered to read her a Wislawa Szymborska poem. She agreed, which is one of the reasons I love her–she knows what she needs. I said I was just going to open the book and read whatever I open it to.

“It might depress you even more…”

“Go ahead. Read.”

This is where we landed:

It could have happened. 
It had to happen. 
It happened sooner. Later. 
Nearer. Farther. 
It happened not to you. 

You survived because you were the first. 
You survived because you were the last. 
Because you were alone. Because of people. 
Because you turned left. Because you turned right. 
Because rain fell. Because a shadow fell. 
Because sunny weather prevailed. 

Luckily there was a wood. 
Luckily there were no trees. 
Luckily there was a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake, 
a frame, a bend, a millimeter, a second. 
Luckily a straw was floating on the surface. 

Thanks to, because, and yet, in spite of. 
What would have happened had not a hand, a foot, 
by step, a hairsbreadth 
by sheer coincidence.
So you're here? Straight from a moment still ajar? 
The net had one eyehole, and you got through it? 
There's no end to my wonder, my silence.
how fast your heart beats in me.

“Beautiful,” she said and then added. “They should read that poem to returning soldiers.”

She thanked me. I thanked the poet.

(Above poem: There But for the Grace by Wislawa Szymborska – (c) 1972)

Wislawa Szymborska’s Parable

I read today of Ms. Szymborska’s passing at age 88 in Krakow, Poland. As a tribute, I repost this entry from August 2011.

I have a book of her poetry, given to me by my poet daughter, that I treasure. It’s one of only four books that I keep in a special place: on top of my toilet. I keep it there so that I could read it often. I’m sure Ms. Szymborska would be OK with that.

Godspeed, dear poet! Poland and the rest of the world will miss you — but we have your poems. . .

Some fishermen pulled a bottle from the deep. In it was a scrap of paper, on which were written the words: “Someone, save me! Here I am. The ocean has cast me up on a desert island. I am standing on the shore waiting for help. Hurry. Here I am!”

“There is no date. Surely it is too late by now. The bottle could have been floating in the sea a long time,” said the first fisherman.

“And the place is not indicated. We do not even know which ocean,” said the second fisherman.

“It is neither too late nor too far. The island called Here is everywhere,” said the third fisherman.

They all felt uneasy. A silence fell. So it is with universal truths.

Wislawa Szymborska, From Sól (Salt) 1962