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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde

A Special Kind of Metaphor: Paradox
(from Wislawa Szymborska's poem, "Return Baggage")

In her poem, "Return Baggage," Szymborska writes of an old woman walking past the graves of young children, pondering their early departure from life. In her final stanza, she writes in Greek, a paradox:

Only stony Greek has words for that

—from the poem, "Return Baggage" by Wislawa Szymborska

The length of people's lives,
of the universe, of all the world,
is but a bizarre paradox in time

—an attempted translation of the Greek by Brad Hyde

Remember that Szymborska wants us to think about how time is measured, as is our lives, as is the time our Earth might continue to exist, and our universe, eventually, as well.

Our lives have their own duration, an arbitrary passage of time, in the same way as time passes for the unimaginable age of the universe. Children, who sometimes die very young, is the way Szymborska shows us the cruel arbitrariness of time.

Thus what is true, seems also an impossibility, that death came on the first day, after only week, or a year, to the children she commemorates in her poem.


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