Traditions we don’t have

Happy Easter Monday. Were my family still in Poland, we’d call it Śmigus-Dyngus, and I might have been woken up this morning by a boy pouring water on me and hitting me on the legs with switches.

In honor of how totally weird that is to think about, here’s a poem for today that is from Poland, and is also about water:

Water
by Wisława Szymborska
(translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

A drop of water fell on my hand,
drawn from the Ganges and the Nile,

from hoarfrost ascended to heaven off a seal’s whiskers,
from jugs broken in the cities of Ys and Tyre.

On my index finger
the Caspian Sea isn’t landlocked,

and the Pacific is the Rudawa’s meek tributary,
the same stream that floated in a little cloud over Paris

in the year seven hundred and sixty-four
on the seventh of May at three a.m.

There are not enough mouths to utter
all your fleeting names, O water.

I would have to name you in every tongue,
pronouncing all the vowels at once

while also keeping silent — for the sake of the lake
that still goes unnamed

and doesn’t exist on this earth, just as the star
reflected in it is not in the sky.

Someone was drowning, someone dying was
calling our for you.  Long ago, yesterday.

You have saved houses from fire, you have carried off
houses and trees, forests and towns alike.

You’ve been in christening fonts and courtesan’s baths.
In coffins and kisses.

Gnawing at stone, feeding rainbows.
In the sweat and the dew of pyramids and lilacs.

How light the raindrop’s contents are.
How gently the world touches me.

Whenever wherever whatever has happened
is written on the waters of Babel.

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