Miracle Fair

Wisława Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh & Stanisław Barańczak

Commonplace miracle:that so many commonplace miracles take place.The usual miracle:invisible dogs barkingin the dead of night.One of many miracles:a small and airy cloudis able to upstage the massive moon.Several miracles in one:an alder is reflected in the waterand is reversed from left to rightand grows from crown to rootand never hits bottomthough the water isn’t deep.A run-of-the-mill miracle:winds mild to moderateturning gusty in storms.A miracle in the first place:cows will be cows.Next but not least:just this cherry orchardfrom just this cherry pit.A miracle minus top hat and tails:fluttering white doves.A miracle (what else can you call it):the sun rose today at three fourteen A.M.and will set tonight at one past eight.A miracle that’s lost on us:the hand actually has fewer than six fingersbut still it’s got more than four.A miracle, just take a look around:the inescapable earth.An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:the unthinkablecan be thought.

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Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012) was born in Poland and worked as a poetry editor, translator, and columnist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996.

Clare Cavanagh professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Northwestern, has received a PEN Translation Award for her work, with Stanisław Barańczak, on Szymborska’s poetry.

Stanisław Barańczak, born in Poland in 1946, was a poet, literary critic, scholar, editor, translator and lecturer. He received numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Felllowship, and translated many seminal works—including the work of William Shakespeare, E.E. Cummings, and Emily Dickinson—from English into Polish.

“Both plain-spoken and luminous . . . Szymborska’s skepticism, her merry, mischievious irreverence and her thirst for the surprise of fresh perception make her the enemy of all tyrannical certainties. Hers is the best of the Western mind—free, restless, questioning.”
New York Times Book Review

“Vast, intimate, and charged with the warmth of a life fully imagined to the end, there’s no better place for those unfamiliar with her work to begin.”
—Megan O’Grady, Vogue

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