PRESENCE

by Adam Zagajewski

I was born in a city of wild cherries
and hard-seeded sunflowers (common wisdom
had it halfway from the West
to the East). Globes stained by verdigris
kept careless vigil.

Might only the absence of presence be perfect?
Presence, after all, infected with the original
sin of existence, is excessive, savage,
Oriental, superb, while beauty, like a fruit knife,
snips its bit of plentitude off.
Life accumulates through generations
as in a pond; it doesn’t vanish
with its moment but turns
airy and dry. I think
of a half-conscious prayer, the chapped lips
of a boy at his first confession,
the wooden step creaking
under his knees.
At night, autumn arrives
for the harvest, yellow, ripe for flame.
There are, I know, not one
but at least four realities,
intersecting
like the Gospels.
I know I’m alone, but linked
firmly to you, painfully, gladly.
I know only the mysteries are immortal.

 

 

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

A TALK WITH FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

by Adam Zagajewski

Most highly respected Professor Nietzsche,
sometimes I seem to see you
on a sanatorium terrace at dawn
with fog descending and song bursting
the throats of the birds.

Not tall, head like a bullet,
you compose a new book
and a strange energy hovers around you.
Your thoughts parade
like enormous armies.

You know now that Anne Frank died,
and her classmates and friends, boys, girls,
and friends of her friends, and cousins
and friends of her cousins.

What are words, I want to ask you, what
is clarity and why do words keep burnging
a century later, though the earth
weighs so much?

Clearly nothing links enlightenment
and the dark pain of cruelty.
At least two kingdoms exist,
if not more.

But if there’s no God and no force
welds elements in repulsion,
then what are words really, and from whence
does their inner light come?

And from where does joy come, and where
does nothingness go? Where is forgiveness?
Why do the incidental dreams vanish at dawn
and the great ones keep growing?

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

R. SAYS

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

Arctic species: Arctic Tern — Natureview photography

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce to you, the world champion long-distance migration: the Arctic Tern!! This little bird breeds as far north as Spitsbergen and flies all the way south down the Atlantic Ocean, may venture a little into the Indian Ocean towards Australia before they turn south again to the Antarctic shores. Here they […]

via Arctic species: Arctic Tern — Natureview photography

forster’s tern

with riverbank trees blocking the low summer sun 
the tern surveyed, up and down and around, 
peering around corners of light, looking, 
looking down on the here smooth and shaded Umatilla

            river of recovery

diving now, wings falcon swept,  
it breaks the glass 

not to go deep deep
there is no deep deep here
but just deep enough 
for a snatch of silver

two minutes later it's back
looking, looking.. 
looking..