Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pets and a Poem by Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel Prize winner

A dear friend of mine lost her pet recently, a cat who lived to be 24 or so years old.   Anyone who has a pet, and anyone who has experienced this loss knows it can hurt more than losing a person--sounds crazy I suppose--but it's true.  Our pets know the most intimate details about us. Just think about it--they know who we sleep with, and they know our routines from waking to bedtime. They know our smells and sounds. They know who we allow in our home, and what we eat.  They travel around our rooms seeking sunny spots during the day, warm spots near radiators in the winter, and they are experts at taking on our most comfortable chairs.

This friend sent me a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel Prize winning poet. She didn't tell me this, but I'm guessing the loss of her dear pet led her to find this poem.

Why do our cats and dogs leave us so soon? Maybe to remind us that the present is where we should reside. Our pets remind us that every day matters, but beyond every day, they also bring something else into our homes--a sense of something other than our egotistic selves. This gorgeous poem calls up that something else.

A Few Words on the Soul
By Wislawa Szymborska (Polish Poet ~ winner of Nobel Prize for Literature 1996)
We have a soul at times.
No one's got it non-stop,
for keeps.  Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

it will settle for awhile
only in childhood's fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It's picky:
it doesn't like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren't two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we're sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won't say where it comes from
or when it's taking off again,
though it's clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.