Submerged City

By Adam Zagajewski b. 1945 Adam Zagajewski

Translated By Clare Cavanagh

That city will be no more, no halos   
of spring mornings when green hills   
tremble in the midst and rise   
like barrage balloons—   

and May won’t cross its streets   
with shrieking birds and summer’s promises.   
No breathless spells,   
no chilly ecstasies of spring water.   

Church towers rest on the ocean’s floor,   
and flawless views of leafy avenues   
fix no one’s eyes.   

And still we live on calmly,   
humbly—from suitcases,   
in waiting rooms, on airplanes, trains,   

and still, stubbornly, blindly, we seek the image,   
the final form of things   
between inexplicable fits   
of mute despair—   

as if vaguely remembering   
something that cannot be recalled,   
as if that submerged city were traveling with us,   
always asking questions,   

and always unhappy with our answers—   
exacting, and perfect in its way.

Source: Poetry (June 2006).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2006
 Adam  Zagajewski


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.

Zagajewski was considered . . .

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