Mother’s Day

Wislawa Szymborska is my favorite poet. I first heard her work many years ago on an NPR segment in which Mark Strand, then poet laureate of the United States described her as the greatest living poet. Shortly before she had won the 1996 Nobel Prize for literature. A compilation view with a grain of sand contains most of her work prior to 1996. Here is a poem that speaks to me on the occasion of Mother’s Day.


So this is his mother.
This small woman.
The gray-eyed procreator

The boat in which, years ago,
he sailed to shore.

The boat from which he stepped
into the world,
into un-eternity.

Genetrix of the man
with whom I leap through fire.

So this is she, the only one
who didn’t take him
finished and complete.

She herself pulled
him into the skin I know,
bound him to the bones
that are hidden from me.

She herself raised
the the gray eyes
that he raised to me.

So this is she, his alpha.
Why has he shown her to me.

So he was born, too.
Born like everyone else.
Like me who will die.

The son of an actual woman.
A new arrival from the body’s depths.
A voyager to Omega.

Subject to
his own absence,
on every front,
at any moment.

He hits his head
against a wall
that won’t give way forever.

His movements
dodge and parry
the universal verdict.

I realized
That his journey was already halfway over.

But he didn’t tell me that,

“This is my mother,”
was all he said.

From view with a grain of sand Harcourt Brace 1993

Wislawa Szymborska died in Krakow on Feb. 1st at age 88.

Thanks to all you Moms.



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