Our Teenage Self

Poetry Writing

When Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska dreams of meeting her teenage self, the only thing she recognizes are the eye sockets.

This picture was taken way far out in the Colombian Plains, during a quick, off-road rally break.

Here is the rest of the poem:



Me—a teenager?
If suddenly, here, now, she stood before me,
would I have to greet her as one who is close,
even though to me she is strange and remote?

To shed a tear, to kiss the forehead
when the only reason
is that we share a birth date?

So much dissimilarity between us
that only bones perhaps are the same,
the cranial vault, the eye sockets.

For her eyes already as if a little bigger,
the eyelashes longer, greater height
and the whole body tightly clothed
in smooth skin without flaw.

It’s true that we’re bound by relatives and friends,
but in her world almost all are alive,
and in mine almost none
of that circle we share.

We differ so much,
our thoughts and words so far apart.
She knows little—
but with tenacity worthy of a better cause.
I know much more—
but without certainty.

She’s showing me her poems,
in clear, careful handwriting
I haven’t used in years.

I’m reading the poems, I’m reading.
Well, maybe this one,
if you shorten it
and correct in a few places.
The rest of it doesn’t bode very well.

The conversation is heavy going.
On her poor wristwatch
time is still wobbly and cheap.
On mine much more expensive and precise.

Nothing for goodbye, a perfunctory smile
and no emotion.

Only when she disappears
and in a rush leaves her scarf.

A scarf of real wool,
with colorful stripes
crocheted by our mother
for her.

I still have it with me.

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