September 11th Poetry

Poland’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska has written a moving tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

The blank verse by Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, was published on the front page of Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper Wednesday, the first anniversary of the hijack attacks.

The poem, translated into English and published in full below, describes a photograph of people falling from one of the World Trade Center’s twin towers after it was hit and on fire.

A photograph from Sept. 11

They jumped from the burning stories, down
— one, two, a few more
higher, lower.
A photograph captured them while they were alive and now preserves them
above ground, toward the ground.
Each still whole
with their own face
and blood well hidden.
There is still time,
for their hair to be tossed,
and for keys and small change
to fall from their pockets. They are still in the realm of the air,
within the places
which have just opened.
There are only two things I can do for them
— to describe this flight
and not to add a final word.