One Poem. One Planet. –Wislawa Szymborska



After every war

someone has to tidy up.

Things won’t pick

themselves up, after all.


Someone has to shove

the rubble to the roadsides

so the carts loaded with corpses

can get by.


Someone has to trudge

through sludge and ashes,

through the sofa springs,

the shards of glass,

the bloody rags.


Someone has to lug the post

to prop the wall,

someone has to glaze the window,

set the door in its frame.


No sound bites, no photo opportunities,

and it takes years.

All the cameras have gone

to other wars.


The bridges need to be rebuilt,

the railroad stations, too.

Shirtsleeves will be rolled

to shreds.


Someone, broom in hand,

still remembers how it was.

Someone else listens, nodding

his unshattered head.

But others are bound to be bustling nearby

who’ll find all that

a little boring.


From time to time someone still must

dig up a rusted argument

from underneath a bush

and haul it off to the dump.


Those who knew

what this was all about

must make way for those

who know little.

And less than that.

And at last nothing less than nothing.


Someone has to lie there

in the grass that covers up

the causes and effects

with a cornstalk in his teeth,

gawking at clouds.


-Wislawa Szymborska, from View With a Grain of Sand, Selected Poems, 1993



Learn more about One Poem. One Planet.


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