The Ball

POETRY FORMAT, 17 May 2021

Wisława Szymborska – TRANSCEND Media Service

As long as nothing can be known for sure,
(no signals have been picked up yet),

As long as earth is still unlike
The nearer and more distant planets,

As long as there’s neither hide nor hair
Of other grasses graced by other winds
Or other treetops bearing other crowns,
Other animals as well grounded as our own,

As long as the local echo
Has been known to speak in syllables

As long as there’s no word
Of better or worse mozarts,
platos, edisons out there,

as long as our inhuman crimes
are still committed only between humans,

as long as our kindness
is still incomparable,
peerless even in its imperfection,

as long our heads packed with illusions
still pass for the only heads so packed,

as long as the roofs of our mouths alone
still raise voices to high heavens —

let’s act like very special guests of honour
at the district fireman’s ball,
dance to the beat of the local oompah band,
and pretend that it’s the ball
to end all balls.

I can’t speak for others —
for me this
misery and happiness enough:

just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us



Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh and appears in Szymborska’s Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library).


Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 May 2021.

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