Life While-You-Wait


Life While-You-Wait.

Performance without rehearsal.

Body without alterations.

Head without premeditation.


I know nothing of the role I play.

I only know itís mine, I canít exchange it.


I have to guess on the spot

just what this playís all about.


Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,

I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.

I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.

I trip at every step over my own ignorance.

I canít conceal my hayseed manners.

My instincts are for hammy histrionics.

Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.

Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.


Words and impulses you canít take back,

stars youíll never get counted,

your character like a raincoat you button on the run Ė

the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.


If I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,

or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!

But here comes Friday with a script I havenít seen.

Is it fair, I ask

(my voice a little hoarse,

since I couldnít even clear my throat offstage).


Youíd be wrong to think that itís just a slapdash quiz

taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.

Iím standing on the set and I see how strong it is.

The props are surprisingly precise.

The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.

The farthest galaxies have been turned on.

Oh no, thereís no question, this must be the premiere.

And whatever I do

will become forever what Iíve done.


Wisława Szymborska††††††††††††††

(from A Large Number 1976)