The Ball

As long as nothing can be known for sure
(no signals have been picked up yet),
as long as Earth is still unlike
the nearer and more distant planets,
as long as there’s neither hide nor hair
of other grasses graced by other winds,
of other treetops bearing other crowns,
other animals as well-grounded as our own,
as long as only the local echo
has been known to speak in syllables,
as long as we still haven’t heard word
of better or worse mozarts,
platos, edisons somewhere,
as long as our inhuman crimes
are still committed only between humans,
as long as our kindness
is still incomparable,
peerless even in its imperfection,
as long as our heads packed with illusions
still pass for the only heads so packed,
as long as the roofs of our mouths alone
still raise voices to high heavens
let’s act like very special guests of honor
at the district-firemen’s ball,
dance to the beat of the local oompah band,
and pretend that it’s the ball
to end all balls.
I can’t speak for others
for me this is
misery and happiness enough:
just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us
unintentionally.
—Wislawa Szymborska
(Translated, from the Polish, by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.)

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