Finis Poloniae

By Gottfried Benn Gottfried Benn Read the Q & A
Finis Poloniae—
a phrase/figure of speech,
that apart from its literal historical meaning
stands in for
the end of empires.

Charged atmosphere,
everything breathes damply,
epicene air—if it could think anything
it would think un-European things like monsoons
and yellow seas.

Greatness bears itself to death,
says its last words to itself,
a foreign-sounding swansong, generally misunderstood,
sometimes tolerated—

Finis Poloniae—
perhaps on a rainy day, bummer,
but in this instance a sound of happiness
followed by solo horn,
and then a hydrangea, most placid of flowers,
capable of standing out in the rain into November,
dropped softly into the grave.

Source: Poetry (November 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2009

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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