“The End and the Beginning” by Wisława Szymborska
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
The End and the Beginning
After every war someone has to clean up. Things won't straighten themselves up, after all. Someone has to push the rubble to the side of the road, so the corpse-filled wagons can pass. Someone has to get mired in scum and ashes, sofa springs, splintered glass, and bloody rags. Someone has to drag in a girder to prop up a wall, Someone has to glaze a window, rehang a door. Photogenic it's not, and takes years. All the cameras have left for another war. We'll need the bridges back, and new railway stations. Sleeves will go ragged from rolling them up. Someone, broom in hand, still recalls the way it was. Someone else listens and nods with unsevered head. But already there are those nearby starting to mill about who will find it dull. From out of the bushes sometimes someone still unearths rusted-out arguments and carries them to the garbage pile. Those who knew what was going on here must make way for those who know little. And less than little. And finally as little as nothing. In the grass that has overgrown causes and effects, someone must be stretched out blade of grass in his mouth gazing at the clouds.
from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska, 2001
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak
Copyright 2001 by Wisława Szymborska.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska. Copyright 2001 by Wisława Szymborska. For further permissions information, contact W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110.
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.