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ZAGAJEWSKI, Adam



Try to praise the mutilated world.

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June's long days,

and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.

The nettles that methodically overgrow

the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.

You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

one of them had a long trip ahead of it,

while salty oblivion awaited others.

You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,

you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together

in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.

Praise the mutilated world

and the grey feather a thrush lost,

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.



Self-Portrait


Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter

half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.

I live in strange cities and sometimes talk

with strangers about matters strange to me.

I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.

I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.

The fourth has no name.

I read poets, living and dead, who teach me

tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand

the great philosophers--but usually catch just

scraps of their precious thoughts.

I like to take long walks on Paris streets

and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,

anger, desire; to trace a silver coin

passing from hand to hand as it slowly

loses its round shape (the emperor's profile is erased).

Beside me trees expressing nothing

but a green, indifferent perfection.

Black birds pace the fields,

waiting patiently like Spanish widows.

I'm no longer young, but someone else is always older.

I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,

and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses

dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.

Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me

and irony suddenly vanishes.

I love gazing at my wife's face.

Every Sunday I call my father.

Every other week I meet with friends,

thus proving my fidelity.

My country freed itself from one evil. I wish

another liberation would follow.

Could I help in this? I don't know.

I'm truly not a child of the ocean,

as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,

but a child of air, mint and cello

and not all the ways of the high world

cross paths with the life that--so far--

belongs to me.