Wislawa Szymborska

      A Contribution to Statistics

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better

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

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

capable of happiness
–twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds
–half at least,

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
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
sooner or later,

–thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding

worthy of compassion

–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.