John Rieffel's Web Page
by Wislawa Szymborska - 1993

Don't take jesters into outer space,
that's my advice.

Fourteen lifeless planets,
a few comets, two stars.
By the time you take off for the third star,
your jesters will be out of humor.

The cosmos is what it is -
namely, perfect.
Your jesters will never forgive it.

Nothing will make them happy:
not time (too immemorial),
not beauty (no flaws)
not gravity (no use for levity).
While others drop their jaws in awe,
the jesters will just yawn.

En route to the fourth star
things will only get worse.
Curdled smiles,
disrupted sleep and equilibrium,
idle chatter:
Remember that crow with the cheese in its beak,
the fly droppings on His Majesty's portrait,
the monkey in the steaming bath -
now that was living.

They'll take Thursday over infinity any day.
Out of tune suits them better than the music of the spheres.
They're happiest in the cracks
between theory and practice,
cause and effect.
But this is Space, not Earth: everything's a perfect fit.

On the thirtieth planet
(with an eye to its impeccable desolation)
they'll refuse even to leave their cubicles:
"My head aches," they'll complain. "I stubbed my toe."

What a waste. What a disgrace.
So much good money lost in outer space.