Today, I’m sharing a poem by the Polish poet, Wisława Szymborska (who won the Nobel Prize in literature back in 1996, by the way). I include many of Szymborska’s poems in my “favorite-poems-of-all-time” folder. Not only is her writing sublime, but, well, she has a lot to say . . . and in that sneaky, clever way that really fine poets have. Even more wonderous, to me, is that her poems come to us as English translations from their original Polish. (Translation . . . is such a gift.)


A Contribution to Statistics
by Wisława Szymborska

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
— fifty-two,

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well, maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds
— half at least,

when forced by circumstances
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— forty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

This poem can be found in MAP: Collected and Last Poems, Wisława Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak, edited by Clare Cavanagh, 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, Mariner Books. Information about the poet can be found here.


You can find A Gathering of Poetry every month . . . on the third Thursday.
Share some.
Read some.
Gather up some poetry!

(Bonny is hosting a special link-up for A Gathering of Poetry. Be sure to check it out!)