letters
to an unknown audience
-----------------------
~
Zag/  /October 09, 2002

It occurred to me that some of you might not know that Adam Zagajewski poem, "Ukraine held a referendum on independence / I was angry at myself / at my narrow, fettered life." Let me see if I can find it.

Oh yes, here it is:

Referendum

Ukraine held a referendum

on independence.

It was foggy in Paris, the weatherman

predicted a cold and cloudy day.

I was angry at myself, at my

narrow, fettered life.

The Seine was trapped between embankment walls.

Bookstores showcased

a new edition of Schopenhauer's

Douleurs du monde.

Parisians wandered through the city

hidden in warm loden coats.

Fog infiltrated lips and lungs

as if the air were sobbing,

going on about itself, about the cold dawn,

how long the night is,

and how ruthless stars can be.

I took a bus toward the Bastille,

razed two hundred years ago,

and tried to read poems

but didn't understand a thing.

What comes after will be invisible

and easy.

Whatever is hesitates between irony

and fear.

Whatever survives will be blue

as a guillotine's eye.

I quoted this poem to all my correspondents after the election last year (no—that was in 2000, two years back). It's so optimistic, and so sad. That line, "how ruthless stars can be." Yes?

And the little coda, "invisible / and easy." And, "Whatever is. . ."

I would like to say that Zagajewski is my favorite poet. But then, there's Delmore Schwartz, and A. R. Ammons, and Anne Carson, and Jeanette W., and. . . Seamus Heaney, and the Beowulf poet (are they different?) and Basho, and Aeschylus.

Yes, "optimistic." Yes, hypocrite lecteur.

I have gauze curtains. I spent tonight at Linda's with a couple. I walked home barefoot, on wet pavement.

"But didn't understand a thing."

P. S. I would love to know how to get poetry in HTML to be properly indented—I want the continuation of a line to be indented a bit further, regardless of where the line breaks. Do you know? Thanks much! Figured it out!

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