Poem #21: Nothing Twice by Wislawa Szymborska

It’s getting difficult choosing one poem to feature each week :).  There are so many poems that I love.  As June 2010 approaches, I find myself lamenting and complaining about how fast the year and time is going.  This week’s poem, Nothing  Twice, cautions against this practice.  It urges us to look as each new day with its opportunities and promise as we would each individual, and to make most of what’s given.

Wislawa Szymborska, born in 1923, is a Polish poet.  She was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.  I have to admit that I can never make sense of these citations by the Nobel folks.  Anyway,  if it means that she’s a fantastic poet, then I agree as I’m a huge fan of her work.  Enjoy.

Nothing Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak



  1. It’s a fantastic poem and I’m glad I’ve read it this week with time catching up on everything I have set out to do since the week began.


  2. Best poem for dealing with grief I have ever read. I come back to it again and again, ever since I first came across it, after the unexpected death of my sister. At this point I have it memorized, but I still like to read the words. From another poem of hers (about her own sister), it “explains everything everything everything.”


    • Thank you for visiting this blog. My condolences on the loss of your sister. I would have said, had you asked, that poetry is a kind companion during times of grief. But you know that already. All the best in the times ahead.


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