by Adam Zagajewski

Literary rats–says R. that’s us.
We meet on line at discount movies;
at dusk, when brocaded suns sink in green ponds,
we leave the libraries, fattened on Kafka.
Enlightened rats, in fatigues, or in the uniforms
of an army mustered by a literate despot;
the secret police of a poet who might be coming to power
at the edge of the city. Rats with stipends, confidential
grant applications, snide remarks; rats with slick hair
and meticulous whiskers.
Capitals, burning asphalt, philanthropic dowagers
all know us well, but not deserts, oceans, or jungles.
An atheist epoch’s Benedictines, missionaries of easy despair,
we might be a link in an evolution
whose sense and address no one betrays.
We’re compensated in small, worthless gold coin,
and with the moment of bliss when metaphor’s flame
welds two free-floating objects, when a hawk lands,
or a tax inspector makes the sign of the cross.

Translated by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C.K. Williams

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