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A Large Number

Four billion people on this earth,
But my imagination is the way it’s always been:
Bad with large numbers.
It is still moved by particularity.
It flits about the darkness like a flashlight beam,
Disclosing only random faces,
While the rest go blindly by,
Unthought of, unpitied.
Not even a Dante could have stopped that.
So what do you do when you’re not,
Even with all the muses on your side?

Non omnis moriar-a premature worry.
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It never has been, and even less so now.
I select by rejecting, for there’s no other way,
But what I reject, is more numerous,
More dense, more intrusive than ever.
At the cost of untold losses-a poem, a sigh.
I reply with a whisper to a thunderous calling.
How much I am silent about I can’t say.
A mouse at the foot of mother mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few lines of claws in the sand.

My dreams-even they are not as populous as they should be.
There is more solitude in them than crowds or clamor.
Sometimes someone long dead will drop by for a bit.
A single hand turns a knob.
Annexes of echo overgrow the empty house.
I run from the threshold down into the quiet
Valley seemingly no one’s-an anachronism by now.

Where does all this space still in me come from-
That I don’t know.


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Poem A Large Number - Wislawa Szymborska