Monday, May 04, 2015

He Folds His Wing

What can I say? It was another duck and dandelions day this morning.
"Night's animals, mournful and rapacious" are sleeping.
The mallard and his mate enjoyed the warm sun,
and so did I.

Houston, 6 p.m.

Europe already sleeps beneath a coarse plaid of borders
and ancient hatreds: France nestled
up to Germany, Bosnia in Serbia’s arms,
lonely Sicily in azure seas.

It’s early evening here, the lamp is lit
and the dark sun swiftly fades.
I’m alone, I read a little, think a little,
listen to a little music.

I’m where there’s friendship,
but no friends, where enchantment
grows without magic,
where the dead laugh.

I’m alone because Europe is sleeping. My love 
sleeps in a tall house on the outskirts of Paris.
In Krakow and Paris my friends
wade in the same river of oblivion.

I read and think; in one poem
I found the phrase “There are blows so terrible …
Don’t ask!” I don’t. A helicopter
breaks the evening quiet.

Poetry calls us to a higher life,
but what’s low is just as eloquent,
more plangent than Indo-European,
stronger than my books and records.

There are not nightingales or blackbirds here 
with their sad, sweet cantilenas,
Only the mockingbird who imitates
and mimics every living voice.

Poetry summons us to life, to courage
In the face of the growing shadow.
Can you gaze calmly at the Earth
like the perfect astronaut?

Out of harmless indolence, the Greece of books,
And the Jerusalem of memory there suddenly appears
The island of a poem, unpeopled;
some new Cook will discover it one day.

Europe is already sleeping. Night’s animals,
mournful and rapacious,
move in for the kill.
Soon America will be sleeping, too.

Adam Zagajewski; translated by Clare Cavanaugh

Now and Then; the Poet's Choice Columns, Robert Hass, Shoemaker and Hoard, 2007, pages 22-23.

Isn't "cantilenas" a beautiful word? The Polish poet taught one semester every year at the University of Houston for quite a long time. This meditation in quatrains brings the tso worlds into relation.

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