Day 26/30 - I lost count


I got my numbers wrong. Since I started this Daily Poem countdown on Day3 of the notLockDown, technically today is Day 29 and not Day 26/30. The penultimate poem.

In honour of numbers, today’s poem is titled “A Contribution to Statistics”. It is a late poem by Polish poet and Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012). She lived through the horrors of WW2 and later, Poland’s communist regime and its departure. It’s a lot to live through. And for those who lived through all that, there are things they know we must not tolerate - racism, fascism, militarism, terrorism - which are names for hatred and death.

She has poems that I cannot read without needing to pause, take a deep breath and not cry. She also has poems that can make you lol. This poem has her characteristic humour. It is smart but not smartass. It is wise and compassionate. And it needs no explanation.

A Contribution to Statistics

Out of a hundred people
those who know better
— fifty-two,

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
— forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly
savage in crowds
— half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances 
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— thirty 
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous
and understanding
— three,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

mortal
— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchallenged.


(Image is from the book “Zero” by Matuda Yukimasa, a really fascinating encyclopedia of symbolic and pictographic scripts and codes.)


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