Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Polish Poets - Zbigniew Herbert

Second poet from my beloved country will, maybe surprisingly, be my favorite polish male-poet, thinker and philosopher Zbigniew Herbert . Someone might say that it definitely should be Czeslaw Milosz, another of the polish Nobel Prize Winners in Literature, but first, he would not look too good as a second, and then, I still feel to young to read his stuff, so I know his works only a little.

So here he goes Mr. Cogito - Zbigniew Herbert:

Report from the Besieged City

Too old to carry arms and fight like the others -

they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler
I record - I don't know for whom - the history of the siege

I am supposed to be exact but I don't know when the invasion began
two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn
everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time

all we have left is the place the attachment to the place
we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses
if we lose the ruins nothing will be left

I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
we don't know where they are held that is the place of torture
thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
friday: the beginning of the plague s
aturday: our invincible defender
N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance

all of this is monotonous I know it can't move anyone

I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the facts
only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
our children don't like fairy tales they play at killing
awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
just like dogs and cats

in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city
along the frontier of our uncertain freedom.
I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights
I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks
truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself
the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns
nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination
Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the Transfiguration
who can count them
the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon
from delicate bird's yellow in spring through green through red to winter's black

and so in the evening released from facts I can think
about distant ancient matters for example our
friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize
they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice
they don't even know their fathers betrayed us
our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse
their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful
they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity
those struck by misfortune are always alone
the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers

now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation
have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles
a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance

cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller
yet the defence continues it will continue to the end
and if the City falls but a single man escapes
he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
he will be the City

we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death
worst of all - the face of betrayal
and only our dreams have not been humiliated

The Envoy of Mr Cogito

Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever your hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let you sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards - they will win
they will go to your funeral with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown's face in the mirror
repeat: I was called - weren't there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak
light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don't need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant - when the light on the mountains gives the sign- arise and go
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way you will be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes

Be faithful Go

A Description of the King

The king's beard on which sauces and ovations
fell until it became heavy as an axe
appears suddenly in a dream to a man condemned to die
and on a candlestick of flesh shines alone in the dark.

One hand for tearing meat is huge as a whole province
through which a ploughman inches forward a corvette lingers
The hand wielding the sceptre has withered from distinction
has grown grey from old age like an ancient coin

In the hour-glass of the heart sand trickles lazily
Feet taken off with boots stand in a corner
on guard when at night stiiffening on the throne
the king heirlessly forfeits his third dimension

The Trial

During his great speech the prosecutor
kept piercing me with his yellow index finger
I'm afraid I didn't appear self-assured
unintentionally I put on a mask of fear and depravity
like a rat caught in a trap an informer a fratricide
the reporters were dancing a war dance
slowly I burned at a stake of magnesia

all of this took place in a small stifling room
the floor creaked plaster fell from the ceiling
I counted knots in the boards holes in the wall faces
the faces were alike almost identical
policemen the tribunal witnesses the audience
they belonged to the party of those without any pity
and even my defender smiling pleasantly
was an honorary member of the firing squad

in the first row sat an old fat woman
dressed up as my mother with a theatrical gesture she raised
a handkerchief to her dirty eyes but didn't cry
it must have lasted a long time I don't know even how long
the red blood of the sunset was rising in the gowns of the judges

the real trial went on in my cells
they certainly knew the verdict earlier
after a short rebellion they capitulated and started to die one after the other
I looked in amazement at my wax fingers

I didn't speak the last word and yet
for so many years I was composing the final speech
to God to the court of the world to the conscience
to the dead rather than the living
roused to my feet by the guards
I managed only to blink and then
the room burst out in healthy laughter
my atoptive mother laughed also
the gavel banged and this really was the end

but what happened after that – death by a noose
or perhaps a punishment generously chained to a dungeon
I’m afraid there is a third dark solution
beyond the limits of time the senses and reason

therefore when I wake I don't open my eyes
I clench my fingers don't lift my head
breathe lightly because truly I don't know
how many minutes of air I still have left

Saturday, August 16, 2008


The world is near fire,
On the brink I dare say.
And yet,
All I can think of is her...

She moved towards me with deliberation.
And deliberately I took her...
Our bodies moved together,
As one.

At once I see it,
The full moon.
It beacons me,
Calls me back...
To her...

Her skin was perfect.
She felt good on my hands,
Like a dream.

Her hands on my flesh,
All over my body.
Not hurried or frenzied,
but slow and deliberate.

But that was her.
She was practiced and steady.
And yet she was accidental.
A paradox of passion and meaning...

Every move screamed passion...
And she ignited mine.
The last time we met, those many years ago,
She burned her place in my mind...

Here, in the full moon,
My body screams for her presence...
Her passion...

The wind blowing in her hair,
Her deliberate passion...
It moves me,
And wounds me...

Perhaps its the moon,
The wolves howl,
Yet all I hear is the crickets...
And the sound of urbanization...

She is out there...
Her body calls me...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I am afraid...

For the Darkman cometh...

Across the sea his winds carry the forces of war.

All will rise and despair.

I am afraid,

For the Darkman sings.

It is a tune of pied piper...

Where all dance and follow...

They do not see the cliff.

I am afraid.

It is the Darkman's hour.

His bells ring and the masses panic.

His grasp is far reaching and wields great power.

I am afraid,

For the masses will starve but will not eat.

They will thirst, but will not drink.

They will fatigue, but find no rest.

They will suffer, but find no quarter.

I afraid.

Mostly because he brings death and woe to mankind...

Your hand in mine, we will stand,

And say "no more."