The Same Inside

Poem for a Tuesday — “The Same Inside” by Anna Swir

“Walking to your place for a love feast
I saw at a street corner
an old beggar woman.
I took her hand,
kissed her delicate cheek,
we talked, she was
the same inside as I am,
from the same kind,
I sensed this instantly
as a dog knows by scent
another dog.
I gave her money,
I could not part from her.
After all, one needs
someone who is close.
And then I no longer knew
why I was walking to your place.”

— from A Book of Luminous Things, ed. Czeslaw Milosz. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996, p. 200.

Anna Swir (Anna Świrszczyńska) emerged from humble origins to become one of the most respected Polish poets of the twentieth century. She served in the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse in the Warsaw Uprising. She wrote frankly about death, war, and the female body. She published nine collections of poetry, as well as plays and stories for children. She received a number of literary awards in her native Poland. She died in Krakow in 1984.

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“Boy at the Window”

Poem for a Tuesday — “Boy at the Window” by Richard Wilbur

Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a God-forsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to paradise.

The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.

in Good Poems, New York: Penguin Books, 2000. p. 319

Richard Purdy Wilbur published his first poem at age 8. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1957 and 1989. He served as the Poet Laureate of the United States in 1987. Wilbur was profoundly shaped by his experience in the Army during World War II. He once described how the war changed his writing, saying, “One does not use poetry for its major purposes, as a means to organize oneself and the world, until one’s world somehow gets out of hand.” He taught for decades at Amherst College and Wesleyan University. He died in 2017 in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Photo by Arina Krasnikova on