“The Book of Events is Always Open Halfway”


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.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh


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1 Comment

  1. Dear Patricia,
    Hello, there, Patricia! What a magnificently full of wisdom blog post article this is of yours, as well as your other insightful ones! I love the poem so, so very much which you used-it complements perfectly your super article! It is very rainy and stormy a lot lately here where I live in Iowa City, Iowa. It has been so fierce that we may have trouble with flooding issues again if it continues around the state. We have had some trouble already around town and the state. In Summer 2008 I lost my former basement apartment which was by the Iowa River in the Great Flood of 2008 back then! I lost pretty much everything but thank God I am safe and I am so blessed to have evacuated in time! I was able to take out most of my photo albums and most of my journals and other writings! I am so, so very blessed to have been safe and alive and to have made it out safely as I was able to have evacuated in time! I do not drive due to disabilities and I don’t have a car. One of my many dear white sisterfriends came to get me and to safely take me out of my soon to be flooded apartment! I stayed with her and other dearest and darling white sisterfriends and other friend for three weeks until I found another apartment! I am so, so very eternally grateful and blessed to my dearest and darling white friends and sisters! They have truly always come through for me- they are true blue and very loyal, kind, loving, giving, and caring! I love them so with all of my heart-they are my heart and I love them from the deepest depths of my heart!

    Patricia, I have two very interesting stories to tell you. I can relate to how you are wondering if the young man you saw later was possibly someone you might have seen at your vacation at Niagara Falls. Once I relocated to Iowa City in 1990 I met a wonderful white friend and sister-one of very many! I was telling Becky that I had gone to the World’s Fair in July 1974 at Spokane, Washington when I was twelve-years-old the summer before I would have started seventh grade. Becky then became very excited and said that right after she graduated from high school along with her twin sister that they had also been there at the World’s Fair. Becky and I wondered if we had somehow seen all of us then not knowing that we would meet at a later date and become friends! Also, I have another story. Later during that same long summer trip I was in Las Vegas, Nevada and thought I saw someone familiar who looked liked the mother of someone with whom I went to school. I wasn’t sure, however. I asked later and found out that the lady was indeed the mother of my friend and classmate! Patricia, maybe you did indeed see that same young man again like you thought you might have seen on your fun-filled trip to Niagara Falls! It could really be, Patricia!

    I so love your very superbly super blog post articles and other amazing and inspiring writings, Patricia! It just makes my day that much significantly brighter reading your very fantastic and fabulous blog post articles, and visiting you very fine and excellent blog post website! I am filled with such eager anticipation for more of your special blog post articles, and when your splendid new book, “Welling Up”, will come out! I am so, so very excited about all of this! I just can barely wait, Patricia, and how I am so looking forward to more of your masterful writings!

    Patricia, please have very nice, special, fun, relaxing, and a very blessed day, my white sister as an ally and in solidarity who you are so, so very much!

    Very Sincerely Always,
    Your black sister in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

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