by Sujatha Raman
inspired by the poem Nothing Twice by Wislawa Szymborska
I was one of the many that first heard of the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska when she was awarded the Noble prize in 1996, 20 years ago. Something in one of the press articles caught my attention and I bought her book.
I read the poem, Nothing Twice, and felt my heart. Here were my innermost feelings on a page. Feelings and yearnings locked away in the deepest recesses of my heart, that I had not really understood myself and had never articulated. No rehearsal. You move through life and deal with whatever is flung at you by the seat of your pants. No second chances. Get it right the first time. Make the right choices at six or ten or twelve because you will live with those choices till eighty.
Perhaps that is why I clung to theatre for so many years. Here you are given rehearsal time and you are given scripts. Ahh scripts! What is better than to have a script? You read a script and read it again and again before you stand up and speak. And then you spend days repeating the words until you have it the way you want it. Safety, structure and security. And perhaps even more important, I knew who would be in the room and what they would say. It was a world where your today was not gone tomorrow.
Because in life, what was bliss yesterday is anger and pain tomorrow. So enjoy who is in your day today. Because tomorrow, his smiles and kisses do not melt your heart. He is not enough to build the life you want. He reads a different script, needs a different script.
Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.
Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.
No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.
One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.
The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?
Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.
With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.
translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
Poems by Wislawa Szymborska