Friday, November 19, 2004

A Thank-You Note by Wislawa Szymborska

When my platonic friends forget to call, I laugh it off and hug them the next time I see them - and know they'd do the same. We can go to a museum and spend the whole afternoon walking through separate rooms, and have a good time. When they make new friends or lovers, I am genuinely and whole-heartedly happy for them. It's not that the love of friendship is less important; it just has fewer thorns. Oh, what would we do without it?

Since I'm an all-too frequent denizen of the "lyrical and rhetorical horizonless space," this poem by Wislawa Szymborska is very special to me.

A "Thank You" Note

There is much I owe

to those I do not love.

The relief in accepting

they are closer to another.

Joy that I am not

the wolf to their sheep.

My peace be with them

for with them I am free,

and this, love can neither give,

nor know how to take.

I don't wait for them

from window to door.

Almost as patientas a sun dial,

I understand

what love does not understand.

I forgive

what love would never have forgiven.

Between rendezvous and letter

no eternity passes,

only a few days or weeks.

My trips with them always turn out well.

Concerts are heard.

Cathedrals are toured.

Landscapes are distinct.

And when seven rivers and mountains

come between us,

they are rivers and mountains

well known from any map.

It is thanks to them

that I live in three dimensions,

in a non-lyrical and non-rhetorical space,

with a shifting, thus real, horizon.

They don't even know

how much they carry in their empty hands.

"I don't owe them anything",

love would have said

on this open topic.


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