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Poem: “Lot’s Wife”

Lot’s Wife

They say I looked back out of curiosity.
But I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape
of my husband Lot’s neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
he wouldn’t so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Our two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop.
I felt age within me. Distance.
The futility of wandering. Torpor.
I looked back setting my bundle down.
I looked back not knowing where to set my foot.
Serpents appeared on my path,
spiders, field mice, baby vultures.
They were neither good nor evil now–every living thing
was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
I looked back in desolation.
In shame because we had stolen away.
Wanting to cry out, to go home.
Or only when a sudden gust of wind
unbound my hair and lifted up my robe.
It seemed to me that they were watching from the walls of Sodom
and bursting into thunderous laughter again and again.
I looked back in anger.
To savor their terrible fate.
I looked back for all the reasons given above.
I looked back involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot, growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in my tracks.
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on the edge.
It was then we both glanced back.
No, no. I ran on,
I crept, I flew upward
until darkness fell from the heavens
and with it scorching gravel and dead birds.
I couldn’t breathe and spun around and around.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was dancing.
It’s not inconceivable that my eyes were open.
It’s possible I fell facing the city.

Wislawa Szymborska


The famous poet Wislawa Szymborska was born in Western Poland on July 2, 1923. When World War II broke out in 1939, she took underground classes and later worked as a railroad employee to avoid being deported for forced labor in Germany. Though Wislawa began her studies in Literature, she had to quit due to a lack of funds. Many of her poems feature war and terrorism and she often wrote from unusual points of view, including the point of view of a cat in the newly empty apartment of its dead owner. Her first book was to be published in 1949, but did not pass censorship as it "did not meet socialist requirements". Working as poetry editor and columnist in Poland, she was described as the "Mozart of Poetry". Wislawa Szymborska died February 1, 2012 in Krakow.


  • goral

    What is it that gave this poet such astounding perception, such a colorful imagination and such a prolific expression as to bring the indescribable to the written word?