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Three poems for Thursday

Try to praise the mutilated world
by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Translated by Renata Gorczynski

I used to have this next one memorized. It’s from one of R. S. Thomas’s earlier collections. He really should’ve gotten the nobel prize…

Here’s a tribute to him. And, his obit.

The Temptation of a Poet, Poetry for Supper, 1958

The temptation is to go back,
To make tryst with the pale ghost
Of an earlier self, to summon
To the mind’s hearth, as I would now,
You, Prytherch, there to renew
The lost poetry of our talk
Over the embers of that world
We built together; not built either,
But found lingering about the corn
That in the stackyard makes its own light.

And if I yield and you come
As in the old days with nature’s
Lore green on your tongue,
Your coat a sack, pinned at the corners
With the rain’s drops, could the talk begin
Where it left off? Have I not been
Too long away? There is a flaw
In your first premise, or else the mind’s
Acid sours the soft light
That charmed me.

Prytherch, I am undone;
The past calls with the cool smell
Of autumn leaves, but the mind draws
Me onward blind with the world’s dust,
Seeking a spring that my heart fumbles.

The Letter, Mass for Hard Times, 1992

I look up from my book,
from the unreality of language,
and stare at the sea’s surface
that says nothing and means it.

This morning there came this letter
from the heart’s stranger, promising
to pray for me. What does that
mean? I, who am a man of prayer,

ask and am silent. Would he
make me insolvent? Strip me
of initiatives in order to repay
trust? Must I refrain from walking

this same sea, lest sinking
I should deride him? Operate
my vehicle at no speed
to attribute to him the safety

in which I arrive? I think his god
is not my god, or he would not
ask for such things. I admit
he has driven me to my knees

but with my eyes open so that,
by long looking over concealed
fathoms, I gaze myself into accepting
that to pray true is to say nothing.



Finally, I am calm enough for poetry—earlier, I didn’t think I’d be able even to read these today, and worried it would be some while yet before I could.

These you never posted before. First, let me use them as opportunity to vote for more poetry here. I’ll try to add what I can, too.

Second, I’ve known the “mutilated world” before, although I don’t remember where. Its urgency builds when it changes the order of subject-verb in the last half of the lines. Good translator. Each poem has its quietness, but I think I like the last best. 3rd stanza: is there supposed to be a period after “repay”?

period corrected.

i know a poet who is “best” friends with the translator… not that that means anything but i’m a name droper.

yes, the last one is one of my current favorite poems… or it has been for about two years or so.

is the translator good as charged?

(and i’ve known worse name dropers than you.)


yes, she is. she is a poet in her own write