en route

Standard

EN ROUTE
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.

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