Wislawa Szymborska

(2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012 / Prowent)

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.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Lot's Wife by Wislawa Szymborska )

  • Freshman - 1,849 Points Kevin Patrick (2/24/2015 3:12:00 PM)

    Although I am not expert in the biblical sense, I am familiar with the story, and appreciate this as being a great interpretation of events from the female perspective. Its wonderful to see the wife flushed out as an actual person as opposed to just being used as a warning for disobeying angels commands. There is a beautiful surrealistic nature to the words. that give it a magical and terrifying vision. Lots wife has never been more sympathetic. Superb stuff (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 10,257 Points Kim Barney (2/24/2015 9:05:00 AM)

    To John Richter:
    I usually agree with everything you say, but to me the story is more than a parable. My belief is that it actually happened. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 37,500 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (2/24/2015 8:15:00 AM)

    Superb imagination thank you ... (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 37,500 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (2/24/2015 8:15:00 AM)

    Superb imagination thank you ... (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 2,098 Points John Richter (2/24/2015 7:10:00 AM)

    How wonderful and imaginative this poem is, told in such a beautiful way... As a boy I often fantasized about this Biblical story, but of course at the time not knowing it was only parable. And it made great sense to me - to leave sin and never look back - never allow it to become a part of our lives again. The poem is such a wonderful foray through whimsy... (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 3,336 Points Pranab K Chakraborty (2/24/2015 6:57:00 AM)

    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................Quiet skilled the choice of looking back. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Ewa Reignger (8/26/2014 2:50:00 PM)

    Next to Utopia the one that I really like. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 21,206 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (7/4/2014 9:12:00 AM)

    A poem much interested in its meaning it is very beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ahmad Shiddiqi (10/9/2008 11:17:00 PM)

    very interesting! ! ! could you read and comment on my poems too? thank you. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Raynette Eitel (2/19/2006 11:51:00 AM)

    This poet has captured something that one doesn't hear in sermons. Perhaps it is because she speaks from a woman't viewpoint of a time when God moved among people ready to do something about sin. 'I looked back from loneliness, from shame that I was stealing away...' All those thoughts before turning to a pillar of salt. Only a poet knows the true mind of Lot's wife. This is my favorite poem by my favorite poet of the twentieth century.

    Raynette (Report) Reply

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