Four a.m. by Wisława Szymborska

The hour between night and day.
The hour between toss and turn.
The hour of thirty-year-olds.

The hour swept clean for roosters’ crowing.
The hour when the earth takes back its warm embrace.
The hour of cool drafts from extinguished stars.
The hour of do-we-vanish-too-without-a-trace.¹

Empty hour.
Hollow. Vain.
Rock bottom of all the other hours.

No one feels fine at four a.m.
If ants feel fine at four a.m.,
we’re happy for the ants. And let five a.m. come
if we’ve got to go on living.


(translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

¹The same line is “The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us” in the translation by Magnus J Krynski and Robert A. Maguire.

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