Wisława Szymborska

For New York City, 2004 Light projection Hotel Pennsylvania, New York Text: “Children of Our Age” from View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska, copyright © 1993 by the author. English translation by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, copyright © 1995 by Harcourt, Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author. Presented by Creative Time © 2004 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo: Attilio Maranzano

Watercolor New York by Stamen Design

Paired: Stamen Design + Wisława Szymborska


Flat as the table
it’s placed on.
Nothing moves beneath it
and it seeks no outlet
Above—my human breath
creates no stirring air
and leaves its total surface

Its plains, valleys are always green,
uplands, mountains are yellow and brown,
while seas, oceans remain a kindly blue
beside the tattered shores.

Everything here is small, near, accessible.
I can press volcanoes with my fingertip,
stroke the poles without thick mittens,
I can with a single glance
encompass every desert
with the river lying just beside it.

A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.

In the east and west,
above and below the equator—
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.

Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered—to be or not.

I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world

Wisława Szymborska
(Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh)

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