Counting elegies

One of the most shocking, penetrating and devastating poems ever written comes from the Nobel prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh translated it as Elegiac calculation. It’s pretty audacious of me to suggest an alternative translation. Yet I feel compelled to seek feedback on my own version of the entire poem, posted below:

Counting elegies

How many of those I knew
(if indeed I knew them)
men, women
(if this separation stands)
have passed over this threshold
(if it’s a threshold)
have run over this bridge
(if it’s a bridge)

How many, after a shorter or longer life
(if it still makes any difference for them)
good, because it has started
bad, because it has ended
(unless they would have preferred to say otherwise)
have found themselves on the other shore
(if they got there
and the other shore exists)

I’ve not been granted the certainty
of their fate
(even if it’s at least one common fate
and still fate)

(if with this word I don't restrict)
is behind them now
(if not in front)

How many of them have jumped out of the speeding time
and is sweetly vanishing in the distance
(if the perspective is to be trusted)

How many
(if that’s a sensible question,
if it’s possible to reach the final sum
until he who counts won’t add up himself)
have plummeted into that deepest sleep
(unless the deeper one exists)

See you,
Till tomorrow,
Till the next meeting.
They don’t want,
(if they don’t) to repeat this.
Subjected to the endless
(unless otherwise) silence.
Preoccupied only with that
(if only that)
which is forced by their absence.

The poem by Wislawa Szymborska
Translation by Pawel Kuczynski

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