Wislawa Szymborska’s new book of poetry, Here, is splendid in the way that it evokes memory, knowledge and understanding on a variety of topics. Her poem, “Teenager”, made me smile with understanding. Everyday or nearly there I talk to my dearest friend from home. We have known each other since the fourth grade, and have spent countless hours on the phone. She is my grounding force, and more often the reflection of my teenage self. When we are speaking, I feel I am two people at the same time. I am the evolving, growing, woman I am today but also a naïve, playful, confused seventeen year old girl. Even though there are jobs to go to, children to care for, and husbands to cook for, there is also a sense of time travel when we talk. The phone transports us from our daily lives and we become two teenage girls talking about our lives, hopes, uncertainties, and beliefs. And laughter prevails over sorrow so we can go back to our duties with a tank full of teenage hope. Here is the beginning of Szymborska’s Teenager,
Me -a teenager?
If she suddenly stood, here, now, before me,
would I need to treat her as near and dear,
although she’s strange to me, and distant?
Shed a tear, kiss her brow
for the simple reason
that we share a birthdate?
So many dissimilarities between us
that only the bones are likely still the same,
the cranial vault, the eye sockets,
Since her eyes seem a little larger,
her eyelashes longer, she’s taller,
and the whole body is tightly sheathed
in smooth, unblemished skin.