A Moment in Troy



Little girls –

skinny, resigned

to freckles that won’t go away,


not turning any heads

as they walk across the eyelids of the world,


looking just like Mom or Dad,

and sincerely horrified by it –


in the middle of dinner,

in the middle of a book,

while studying the mirror,

may suddenly be taken off to Troy.


In the grand boudoir of a wink

they all turn into beautiful Helens.


They ascend the royal staircase

in the rustling of silk and admiration.

They feel light. They all know

that beauty equals rest,

that lips mold the speech’s meaning,

and gestures sculpt themselves

in inspired nonchalance.


Their small faces

worth dismissing envoys for

extend proudly on necks

that merit countless sieges.


Those tall, dark movie stars,

their girlfriends’ older brothers,

the teacher from art class,

alas, they must all be slain.


Little girls

observe disaster

from a tower of smiles.


Little girls

wring their hands

in intoxicating mock despair.


Little girls

against a backdrop of destruction,

with flaming towns for tiaras,

in earrings of pandemic lamentation.


Pale and tearless.

Triumphant. Sated with the view.

Dreading only the inevitable

moment of return.


Little girls




Wisława Szymborska  

(from Salt 1962)