Jul 28 2010

Wislawa Szymborska – Miracle Fair

Published by at 10:30 am under Poetry

Miracle Fair
by Wislawa Szymborska

English version by Joanna Trzeciak

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it’s backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

— from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Joanna Trzeciak


/ Photo by Irargerich /

There are so many things I like about this poem!

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

That realization, when it stops being simply a nice idea and truly takes hold of the awareness, when that happens, the world finally comes alive to us. Or perhaps we come alive to it.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

Miracles do not have to be relegated to the supernatural and the superhuman. We don’t need to have lived in remote times or exotic places to experience miracles. We don’t need to have spent weary decades in extreme spiritual practices to experience miracles. We don’t need a different life or a different world.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

We just need to look around. We just need to see.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

What is a miracle, really? It isn’t so much an event or an experience as a moment. It is a moment of recognition, when our awareness catches a glimpse of the wider reality, when what we witness washes us away.

The world is pregnant with miracles. All it takes is for us to approach with quiet awareness and awe, and the most mundane things open themselves into infinities.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it’s backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

But to really look, with a steady gaze and still mind — so hard to do. The reflex is to squirm, to turn away, to let the mind grasp at a thousand things. That’s the hard work right there: learning to relax out of that reflex and not lurch away from really seeing. Only then do we glimpse the miracle spread out beneath our feet.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

Allow yourself to enjoy a moment with the unthinkable today!

Wislawa Szymborska, Wislawa Szymborska poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wislawa Szymborska

Poland (1923 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Wislawa Szymborska (pronounced vis’wava sim’borska) was born in Prowent, Poland in 1923. When she was still a child, in the early 1930’s, her family moved to Krakow.

When World War II broke out, Wislawa Szymborska was still a student, and had to continue her education in secret. Toward the end of the war she found work with the railroads, protecting her from being deported to the forced labor camps in Germany. She also found occasional work as an illustrator.

With the end of the war, she began her university studies, focusing on language, literature, and sociology. It was then that she connected with the Polish writing scene and published her first poems.

Because of difficult finances, she eventually had to drop out of school. She married in 1948 (and later divorced, in 1954). During this time she worked as a secretary and illustrator for a magazine.

With the rise of Soviet influence over Poland in the post-war era, Wislawa Szymborska, like many artists and intellectuals, initially embraced or, at least, accepted the new Soviet-style society. But she gradually distanced herself from official ideology which increasingly showed itself to be foreign-dominated bureaucratic totalitarianism and not supportive of the people. By the 1980s she was contributing material for underground samizdat publications in opposition to official ideology.

She spent much of her career as a columnist for a Polish literary review magazine, and many of her essays have been gathered together and published in book form.

In 1996 Wislawa Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Although her poetry is loved throughout the world, she has published fewer than 250 poems.

More poetry by Wislawa Szymborska

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Wislawa Szymborska – Miracle Fair”

  1. Mary Annon 28 Jul 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Although her output as a poet is small, her poems are just amazing jewels.

    I find it miraculous, living in Texas, that anywhere in the world “the sun rose at three-fourteen”!

  2. Fireflyon 28 Jul 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Ivan, you re just great. I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful posts. Szymborska is one of my favorite poets.
    I want to say Ivan, that you’re a miracle too!

  3. nasihaon 29 Jul 2010 at 12:12 am

    hi Ivan,
    everyday seems like a miracle and there is life in thin air.
    Inhale life, exhale to cleanse and the cycle has an ending like all things.

    thank you for the wonderful poem..!

  4. Rena Navonon 29 Jul 2010 at 7:51 am

    Looking topwards

    Small on my family’s tree
    Light uses twigs for fuel
    Large and heavy moon

    I hope Szymborska would like this haiku she inspired, and even forgive me the line I repeat, at the end, waxing moon gaining even more, magic triumphant.
    (She ‘only’ published 250 poems, you say? As a poet that seems like a lot to me.)

  5. simonbaghon 29 Jul 2010 at 10:01 am

    what is revealed to reveal is to repeat
    excavate to see all there is underneath

    get to know yourself as you are indeed
    to perceive the gist of your own breed

    in way to know your limbs would bleed
    to reason out the trait of a simple seed

    then you discern what others have down
    how sobbing the life road they have gone

    those bearing no labour never enhance
    others doing hard would win the chance

    I mean not to grieve lonely in your den
    but let gayly explore yourself your pen

  6. Kevinon 19 Aug 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Hi! So glad that you love Wislawa Szymborska too and that she resonates with you. I just completed an entire album of songs loosely based on her amazing poetry. If you are interested, check us out at:

    http://www.closerocean.com

    also at itunes:

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/supercollider/id387574155

    facebook;
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Closer-Ocean/102043189851593?ref=ts

    Thanks for listening!

    Kevin

  7. Chris Hassigon 03 May 2016 at 9:55 pm

    I much prefer this translation from Stanislaw Baranczak and Claire Cavanaugh:

    The commonplace miracle:
    that so many common miracles take place.

    The usual miracle:
    invisible dogs barking
    in the dead of night.

    One of many miracles:
    a small and airy cloud
    is able to upstage the massive moon.

    Several miracles in one:
    an alder is reflected in the water
    and is reversed from left to right
    and grows from crown to root
    and never hits bottom,
    though the water isn’t deep.

    A run-of-the mill miracle:
    winds mild to moderate
    turning gusty in storms.

    A miracle in the first place:
    Cows will be cows

    Next but not least:
    just this cherry orchard
    from just this cherry pit.

    A miracle minus top hat and tails:
    fluttering white doves.

    A miracle (what else can you call it):
    the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
    and will set tonight at one past eight.

    A miracle that’s lost on us:
    the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
    but still it’s got more than four.

    A miracle, just take a look around:
    the inescabable earth.

    An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
    the unthinkable
    can be thought.

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