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Daily Helping for September 23rd, 2021 – Wislawa Szymborska – Cat in an Empty Apartment

A close up photo of poet Wislawa Szymborska. She is smiling slightly and looking off camera to the left.

Not to be a downer, but today’s helping, “Cat in an Empty Apartment” by Wislawa Szymborska, is all about death. In fact, it’s probably one of the better poems about death I’ve ever read. Which is saying something, because it’s from the perspective of a cat.

But I actually think that’s what makes this poem so poignant. A cat, left alone in an empty apartment after its owner has died, tries to make sense of its new reality. And of course, it doesn’t understand why it is suddenly alone in surroundings that used to be so familiar but now don’t feel right. And of course a cat would be haughty about it and planning how it will teach its owner a lesson when he finally does return. Because, as the poem states, “Die — you can’t do that to a cat.” And here come the tears…

Wislawa Szymborska is a Polish poet, so once again I’m reading poetry that has been translated. But it still manages to hit you with all the feels. Cats have never been my favourite pets because they quite literally kill me. But now I have a feeling I’m going to be picturing this cat for the rest of the day, wandering around an empty apartment, pawing at the walls and wondering where its owner has gone. So definitely a downer then. Sorry about that.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!