21 Days/21 Poems: Some People by Wislawa Szymborska

We woke up this morning to reports of full-blown civil war in Cote D’Ivoire, my country’s neighbor to west.  We are distressed at the turn of events.  But are we surprised?  What is about some African “leaders” and their murderous, unquenchable thirst for power and money?  For what purpose and to what end?

The theme for today’s 21 Days/21 Poems is war.

Some People

Some people fleeing some other people.
In some country under the sun
and some clouds.

They leave behind some of their everything,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now sees itself reflected.

On their backs are pitchers and bundles,
the emptier, the heavier from one day to the next.

Taking place stealthily is somebody’s stopping,
and in the commotion, somebody’s bread somebody’s snatching
and a dead child somebody’s shaking.

In front of them some still not the right way,
nor the bridge that should be
over a river strangely rosy.
Around them, some gunfire, at times closer, at times farther off,
and, above, a plane circling somewhat.

Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or even better, non-being
for a little or a long while.

Something else is yet to happen, only where and what?
Someone will head toward them, only when and who,
in how many shapes and with what intentions?
Given a choice,
maybe he will choose not to be the enemy and
leave them with some kind of life.

by Wislawa Szymborska and translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Source: Poets.org

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12 comments

  1. I love the repetition of some in the poem, it makes the poem less specific and more relevant to everywhere, or at least that is the feeling I get from it.

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    • I agree with your feeling. Even though it is quite general, it also makes the specific emotions that people in such situations feel more real. General yet specific. Wislawa is quite a marvel.

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  2. This poem is so candid. I can see the Ivory Coast happening in-between its lines. It gives a perspective many may not even see currently. “A dead child somebody’s a-shaking”. Wow. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Wow, indeed. This poem is very accessible and yet packs quite a punch. I like that the language is simple because what it describes is really harrowing, painful and disturbing. The last stanza works both ways; someone approaching them might also hope that they may decide to not be the enemy. Conflict is completely wrong!

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    • I agree. It does its job well and in an almost understated manner. It’s very delicate and is a contrast to the situation and the emotion that it elicits.

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  3. A fitting piece for an ugly situation. I believe no one should die for another to achieve his aim or objective, whichever camp it is. The news from Cote d’Ivoire is worrying and disturbing. I feel saddened that one of the most peaceful countries in Africa should descend into such an abyss…

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