A Word On Statistics

By Wisława Szymborska

Out of every hundred people
those who always know better:
Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.
Ready to help,
if it doesn’t take long:
Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four—well, maybe five.
Able to admire without envy:
Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.
Those not to be messed with:
forty and four.
Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.
when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know,
not even approximately.
Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.
Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).
Doubled over in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.
Those who are just:
quite a few at thirty-five.
But if it takes effort to understand:
Worthy of empathy:
one hundred out of one hundred—
a figure that has never varied yet.

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