The poet Wislawa Szymborska was born in 1923, almost a hundred years ago. She was a sparkling, sharp and humorous poet. Today I came upon her poem about Lot’s wife and it really touched me how she gave her a voice and created a woman in whom we can recognize ourselves.
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
of my husband Lot’s neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I
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
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 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 involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot,
growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on
It was when 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
I couldn’t breathe and spun around and
Anyone who saw me must have thought I
It’s not inconceivable that my eyes were
It’s possible I fell facing the city.