Hermits Rock

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Here a poem by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Renata Gorczynski

for Adam Michnik

We lived understanding little and craving
knowledge. As plants do, when they grow toward
light, we sought justice
and we found it only in the plants,
in the leaves of the horse chestnut, enormous
as oblivion, in the fern shrubs which swayed
slowly and made no promises.
In silence. In music. In a poem. We sought
justice, confusing it with beauty.
We turned our backs on cruelty
and boredom. There’s no solution, that much
we knew, there are only fragments, and the fact that
we spoke in complete sentences seemed to us
a strange joke. How easy it was to hate
a policeman. Even his face seemed to us
a part of his uniform. The errors of others
reflected mountains, clouds. Life then was
round like a balloon when it gets going.
Spruces stood still, filled with shadows
and stillness like the depths of an ocean. Green
eyes, your wet skin,
my lizard. In the evening, mute lightening
flickered in the sky. It was other people’s thoughts
burning down safety. One had to
pack in a hurry and go further,
east or west, mapping out
an escape route.



A dollar says the first several drafts of this poem ended somewhere—perhaps several lines—after “escape route.”