A Contribution to Statistics


Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
–fifty-two,

doubting every step
–nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
–as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
–four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
–eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
–sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
–forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
–seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
–twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds
–half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances
–better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
–just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
–thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
–eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous
–thirty-five, which is a lot,

righteous
and understanding
–three,

worthy of compassion
–ninety-nine,

mortal
–a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.


    Polish; trans. Stanislaw Baranczak
           & Clare Cavanagh



Wislawa Szymborska, Polish, trans. Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh, Poems New and Collected, Harvest Books, 2000.