Poem: “A Little on the Soul”


A Little on the Soul

Periodically one has a soul.
Nobody has it all the time and forever.

Day after day, year after year
can pass without it.

Sometimes only in rapture
and in fears of childhood
it dwells within longer.
Sometimes only in the astonishment,
that we have become old.

It rarely assists us
in strenuous pursuits,
such as moving furniture,
carrying suitcases
or tromping through a road in tight shoes.

While filling in forms
and chopping meat
it usually takes the day off.

In a thousand of our conversations
it participates in one,
and not even necessarily in one,
preferring silence.

When our bodies start aching more and more,
it silently leaves the ward.
It’s fussy:
it doesn’t see us immediately in a crowd,
it sickens at our attempts at mere advantage
and the shrill clamor of business.

Joy and sorrow
are not all that different to it.
Only in the combination of them
does it stand up.

We can rely on it,
when we are certain of nothing,
and when everything seizes us.

Among all material objects
it likes best clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which work fervently,
Even when nobody looks.

It doesn’t say where it comes from
and when it will disappear next,
But it clearly awaits such questions.

It looks like,
as much as we need it,
also it
needs us for something too.

Wislawa Szymborska


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