Library of Congress

Poetry and Literature

The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature> Poet Laureate > Past Poet Laureate Projects > Poetry 180 > Full List of Poems > Poem 051
{ site_name: 'Poetry', subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress/poetry.php' }

Back to Full List of 180 Poems

A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth

She’s been in this world for over a year,
and in this world not everything’s been examined
and taken in hand.

The subject of today’s investigation
is things that don’t move by themselves.

They need to be helped along,
shoved, shifted,
taken from their place and relocated.

They don’t all want to go, e.g., the bookshelf,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.

But the tablecloth on the stubborn table
—when well-seized by its hems—
manifests a willingness to travel.

And the glasses, plates,
creamer, spoons, bowl,
are fairly shaking with desire.

It’s fascinating,
what form of motion will they take,
once they’re trembling on the brink:
will they roam across the ceiling?
fly around the lamp?
hop onto the windowsill and from there to a tree?

Mr. Newton still has no say in this.
Let him look down from the heavens and wave his hands.

This experiment must be completed.
And it will.

—Wisława Szymborska

from MONOLOGUE OF A DOG: New Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

English translation copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) was the 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the author of over 20 volumes of poetry, including Map: Collected and Last Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).

Learn more about Wisława Szymborska at The Poetry Foundation.