Golden Anniversary


They must have been different once,

fire and water, miles apart,

robbing and giving in desire,

that assault on one another’s otherness.

Embracing, they appropriated and expropriated each other

for so long

that only air was left within their arms,

transparent as if after lightning.


One day the answer came before the questions.

Another night they guessed their eye’s expression

by the type of silence in the dark.


Gender fades, mysteries molder,

distinctions meet in all-resemblance

just as all colours coincide in white.


Which of them is doubled and which missing?

Which one is smiling with two smiles?

Whose voice forms a two-part canon?

When both heads nod, which one agrees?

Whose gesture lifts the teaspoon to their lips?

Who’s flayed the other one alive?

Which one lives and which has died

entangled in the lines of whose palm?


They gazed into each other’s eyes and slowly twins emerged.

Familiarity breeds the most perfect of mothers -

it favors neither of the little darlings,

it scarcely can recall which one is which.


On this festive day, their golden anniversary,

A dove, seen identically, perched on the windowsill.


Wisława Szymborska  

(from Salt 1962)