#15: Wislawa Szymborska and a Wedding

#15: Wislawa Szymborska and a Wedding


31 August, 2019

Nothingness unseamed itself for me too.

It turned itself wrong side out.

How on earth did I end up here—

head to toe among the planets,

without a clue how I used not to be.

O you, encountered here and loved here,

I can only guess, my arm on yours,

how much vacancy on that side went to make us,

how much silence there for one lone cricket here,

how much nonmeadow for a single sprig of sorrel,

and sun after darknesses in a drop of dew

as repayment—for what boundless droughts?

Starry willy-nilly! Local in reverse!

Stretched out in curvatures, weights, roughnesses, and motions!

Time out from infinity for endless sky!

Relief from nonspace in a shivering birch tree’s shape!

Now or never wind will stir a cloud,

since wind is exactly what won’t blow there.

And a beetle hits the trail in a witness’s dark suit,

testifying to the long wait for a short life.

And it so happened that I’m here with you.

And I really see nothing

usual in that.

—Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

Jason and I met the summer after I finished undergrad, on OKCupid, in New York City. It was the tail end of August, when breezes are first starting to whisper about the possibility of the year turning the corner into fall, but it had been a long, slow sticky summer, hard in the way that the summer after undergrad is hard. I was figuring out that a new job wasn't as shiny and good as I had expected, simple things like finding the grocery store or getting myself to work on time were difficult, I was fairly certain my apartment had a small bedbug infestation (it did), and I had started online dating with the excuse that maybe it would get me out more, break me out of whatever life-transition funk had settled into my everyday, or at the very least, get me out of my un-air conditioned, itchy apartment.

Jason was originally saved in my phone as "Anne Carson guy,"—I messaged him because he had the poet listed among his favorite writers. I met up with Anne Carson guy at a bar, The Pencil Factory, in Greenpoint, early on a Sunday evening. The night rolled itself out in the way that the best New York City nights do—we were alone in the bar, and the bartender, who seemed to get what was going on, played nothing but old Motown and R&B tunes, like we were living in You've Got Mail. We left the bar, walked around, got terrible pizza, felt the breeze pick up as we ran into the train station. I texted Jason before I even got all the way home that night. We saw each other three times that first week, kissing in Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park and wandering around the city holding hands—holding hands!—like it had been made for us. He read me the Wislawa Szymborska poem, which he had tacked up on his wall, the first time I visited his apartment, the first time I met Chico, our little dog.

Here we are, four years and two cities later (Boston and now Chicago), and earlier this month, Jason asked me to marry him. All of it seems so improbable, the odds of this wild happiness at once so unlikely and also, as soon as I met Jason, so completely self evident that this was the only way I wanted it to go, that it could go.

A few years ago, I read straight through one of those "collected Works" of Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet, largely because of the little scrap of paper that has followed us from apartment to apartment and now hangs, framed, in our living room. She writes about nature, and about the war and suffering she survived—she narrowly escaped having gone to a work camp in World War II and still must have known so many people who died in these camps—but every now and then, like in the little untitled poem above, sheer awe at life spikes through, sends her willy-nilly into the stars and puts you head to toe among the planets alongside her.

This thread of joy, the sheer improbability of its existence, the tremendous void of space and nothingness and bad OKCupid dates that exists, and the absolutely wild improbability that Jason and I and our perfect little dog to spent this morning laying in a near-empty patch of grass anyways, with bees in clover and an improbably lime-green oak tree—there is really nothing usual in that.