Tierra del Fuego

By Adam Zagajewski b. 1945 Adam Zagajewski

Translated By Clare Cavanagh

You who see our homes at night
and the frail walls of our conscience,   
you who hear our conversations   
droning on like sewing machines   
—save me, tear me from sleep,   
from amnesia.

Why is childhood—oh, tinfoil treasures,

oh, the rustling of lead, lovely and foreboding—   
our only origin, our only longing?
Why is manhood, which takes the place of ripeness,   
an endless highway,
Sahara yellow?

After all, you know there are days   
when even thirst runs dry   
and prayer’s lips harden.

Sometimes the sun’s coin dims   
and life shrinks so small
that you could tuck it
in the blue gloves of the Gypsy   
who predicts the future
for seven generations back

and then in some other little town   
in the south a charlatan
decides to destroy you,
me, and himself.

You who see the whites of our eyes,   
you who hide like a bullfinch
in the rowans,
like a falcon
in the clouds’ warm stockings

—open the boxes full of song,
open the blood that pulses in aortas   
of animals and stones,
light lanterns in black gardens.

Nameless, unseen, silent,   
save me from anesthesia,   
take me to Tierra del Fuego,   
take me where the rivers
flow straight up, horizontal rivers   
flowing up and down.

Adam Zagajewski, “Tierra del Fuego,” translated by Clare Cavanagh, from Without End: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Mysticism for Beginners (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997)

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Poet Adam Zagajewski b. 1945


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Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1945; as an infant he was relocated with his family to western Poland. He lived in Berlin for a couple of years, moved to France in 1982, and has taught at universities in the United States, including the University of Houston and the University of Chicago. Zagajewski writes in Polish; many of his books of poetry and essays have been translated into English.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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