Today, a young man wearing a Maid of the Mist tee shirt and I crossed paths on a Somerville sidewalk. Exactly one week ago I was at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. Had that young man been one of the blue mass of people I’d photographed?
Silly? Of course. What are the odds? Terrible. Nevertheless I’m reminded of a delightful poem by the Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska, that speaks of Chance. And wonder. So on this sweltering, pre-thunder storm Tuesday, here it is:
Love at First Sight
They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.
Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways –
perhaps they’ve passed each other by a million times?
I want to ask them
if they don’t remember –
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver? –
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.
They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.
Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.
There were signs and signals
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thickets?
There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night perhaps some dream
grown hazy by morning.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA (1993)
Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh