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Scrap of Scripture: A bit of a poem by Wislawa Szymborska

A day or so ago, a well put together little old lady returned a couple of books of poetry. I asked her if she had read Gabriel by Edward Hirsch. She had not, but she had it on her to read list. I told her a bit about Hirsch’s book. She told me that she loves poetry, and that she very much appreciated my taking the time to recommended a book of poetry to her. She decided to return the favor. She directed me to the work of Wislawa Szymborska, who, she told me, had the wit of Dorothy Parker but with depth.

She told me, “You have to read Szymborska.”

She spelled out the poet’s last name, determined that I would not be blocked in my search. Our conversation turned Dorothy Parker; we agreed that Parker’s witticism are delightful but her poetry isn’t robust, it cannot stand a good long chew. As the well put together little old lady left the library, again

She told me, “You have to read Szymborska.”

The way she repeated Szymborska’s last name with a very particular emphasis was like a incantation.

She told me, “You have to read Szymborska.”
“You have to read Szymborska.”
“You have to read Szymborska.”

And I promised that I would.

I tell you, “I have to read Szymborska.”
“I have to read Szymborska.”

So I searched the library catalog and found People on A Bridge, which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. I flipped through the book and her poem “A contribution on pornography” caught my eye. Those of my faithful and faithless followers familiar with my body of work will not be at all surprised that my eyes were drawn to a poem about pornography. To entice y’all to read Szymborska,

I tell you, “You have to read Szymborska.”

I will quote a small fragment.

A contribution on pornography
There is not debauchery worse than thought.
This wantonness is rampant like a wind-blown weed
on a bed reserved for begonias.

For those who think, nothing is sacred.
Brazenly calling everything by name,
perverse analyses, meretricious syntheses,
wild and dissolute pursuit of naked facts,

Remember the well put together little old lady told me

“You have to read Szymborska.”

Somehow she knew that I would resonate with Szymborska. More importantly, anytime we think that the elderly are withered, that they are dried out and dusty, full of musty, moth eaten ideas, we need to remember that the well put together little old lady directed me to the juicy fullness of Szymborska’s work.

She told me, “You have to read Szymborska.”

I have to read Szymborska.

And now I tell you,

“You have to read Szymborska.”

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