En Route

By Adam Zagajewski b. 1945 Adam Zagajewski
1.  without baggage

    To travel without baggage, sleep in the train
    on a hard wooden bench,
    forget your native land,
    emerge from small stations
    when a gray sky rises
    and fishing boats head to sea.


2.  in belgium

    It was drizzling in Belgium
    and the river wound between hills.
    I thought, I'm so imperfect.
    The trees sat in the meadows
    like priests in green cassocks.
    October was hiding in the weeds.
    No, ma'am, I said,
    this is the nontalking compartment.


3.  a hawk circles above the highway

    It will be disappointed if it swoops down
    on sheet iron, on gas,
    on a tape of tawdry music,
    on our narrow hearts.


4.  mont blanc

    It shines from afar, white and cautious,
    like a lantern for shadows.


5.  segesta

    On the meadow a vast temple—
    a wild animal
    open to the sky.


6.  summer

    Summer was gigantic, triumphant—
    and our little car looked lost
    on the road going to Verdun.


7.  the station in bytom

    In the underground tunnel
    cigarette butts grow,
    not daisies.
    It stinks of loneliness.


8.  retired people on a field trip

    They're learning to walk
    on land.


9.  gulls

    Eternity doesn't travel,
    eternity waits.
    In a fishing port
    only the gulls are chatty.


10.  the theater in taormina

    From the theater in Taormina you spot
    the snow on Etna's peak
    and the gleaming sea.
    Which is the better actor?


11.  a black cat

    A black cat comes out to greet us
    as if to say, look at me
    and not some old Romanesque church.
    I'm alive.


12.  a romanesque church

    At the bottom of the valley
    a Romanesque church at rest:
    there's wine in this cask.


13.  light

    Light on the walls of old houses,
    June.
    Passerby, open your eyes.


14.  at dawn

    The world's materiality at dawn—
    and the soul's frailty.

Adam Zagajewski, "Reading Milosz" from Eternal Enemies. Copyright © 2008 by Adam Zagajewski. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Eternal Enemies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

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Poet Adam Zagajewski b. 1945

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

 Adam  Zagajewski

Biography

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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION Poland

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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