They must have been different once,
fire and water, miles apart,
robbing and giving in desire,
that assault on one another’s otherness.
Embracing, they appropriated and expropriated each other
for so long
that only air was left within their arms,
transparent as if after lightning.
One day the answer came before the question.
Another night they guessed their eyes’ expression
by the type of silence in the dark.
Gender fades, mysteries molder,
distinctions meet in all-resemblance
just as all colors coincide in white.
Which of them is doubled and which missing?
Which one is smiling with two smiles?
Whose voice forms a two-part canon?
When both heads nod, which one agrees?
Whose gesture lifts the teaspoon to their lips?
Who’s flayed the other one alive?
Which one lives and which has died
entangled in the lines of whose palm?
They gazed into each other’s eyes and slowly twins emerged.
Familiarity breeds the most perfect of mothers—
it favors neither of the little darlings,
it scarcely can recall which one is which.
On this festive day, their golden anniversary,
a dove, seen identically, perched on the windowsill.
"Golden Anniversary" from MAP: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska, translated from Polish by Clare Cavanaugh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Copyright © 2015 by The Wislawa Szymborska Foundation. English copyright © 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet whose work was widely translated into English. In 1996, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Date Published: 2016-04-22
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/golden-anniversary