‘Thank-You Note’ by Wislawa Szymborska

I owe so much

to those I don’t love.

The relief as I agree

that someone else needs them more.

The happiness that I’m not

the wolf to their sheep.

The peace I feel with them,

the freedom –

love can neither give

nor take that.

I don’t wait for them,

as in window-to-door-and-back.

Almost as patient as a sundial,

I understand

what love can’t

and forgive

as love never would.

From a rendezvous to a letter

is just a few days or weeks,

not an eternity.

Trips with them always go smoothly,

concerts are heard,

cathedrals visited,

scenery is seen.

And when seven hills and rivers

come between us,

the hills and rivers can be found on any map.

They deserve the credit

if I live in three dimensions,

in nonlyrical and nonrhetorical space

with a genuine, shifting horizon.

They themselves don’t realize

how much they hold in their empty hands.

‘I don’t owe them a thing’

would be love’s answer

to this open question.

(trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)


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