A Large Number by Wislawa Szymborska
Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is the way it’s always been:
bad with large numbers.
It is still moved by particularity.
It flits about the darkness like a flashlight beam,
disclosing only random faces,
while the rest go blindly by,
unthought of, unpitied.
Not even a Dante could have stopped that.
So what do you do when you’re not,
even with all the muses on your side?
Non omnis moriar—a premature worry.
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It never has been, and even less so now.
I select by rejecting, for there’s no other way,
but what I reject, is more numerous,
more dense, more intrusive than ever.
At the cost of untold losses—a poem, a sigh.
I reply with a whisper to a thunderous calling.
How much I am silent about I can’t say.
A mouse at the foot of mother mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few lines of claws in the sand.
My dreams—even they are not as populous as they should be.
There is more solitude in them than crowds or clamor.
Sometimes someone long dead will drop by for a bit.
A single hand turns a knob.
Annexes of echo overgrow the empty house.
I run from the threshold down into the quiet
valley seemingly no one’s—an anachronism by now.
Where does all this space still in me come from—
that I don’t know.
– Wislawa Szymborska