Wislawa Szymborska
Plato, or Why on Earth

translated, from the Polish, by Justyna Kostkowska


For reasons unclear,

and in circumstances unknown,

the Ideal ceased to be content with itself.


It could have gone on and on with no end,

carved away from darkness, chiseled out of light,

in its dreamy gardens above.


So why on Earth did it seek excitement

in the bad company of matter?


Why did it need enthusiasts

among the non-starters, born losers,

with no prospects for eternity?


Wisdom on crutches

with a thorn deep in its heel?

Harmony torn apart

by stormy waters?


with aesthetically displeasing intestines

and Good

—why with a shadow

if it used to be without?


There had to be a reason,

inconsequential as it seemed,

but it won’t be betrayed even by the Naked Truth,

busily sifting through

its earhtly attire.


And to top it all off, Plato, those intolerable poets,

the gust-borne shavings off the monuments,

scraps of the grand highland Silence…

Found In Volume 32, No. 06
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  • Wislawa Szymborska
Wislawa Szymborska
About the Author

Wislawa Szymborska is a Polish essayist and poet who was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Her books include Dwukropek (“Colon”) and Tutaj (“Here”).