When I emerged from my bed after having been under the weather, pushed down by a mean virus, I discovered that one of the (unopened) library books in my stack had been requested and could not be renewed, so I must return it. Well, I had that much strength, but I would put off the errand until I had at least browsed that book, a collection of poems I had read about on Orientikate’s blog. They are by Adam Zagajewski, a Polish poet born in 1945. I did find several poems to love, but it was his voice coming through that somehow soothed me as I scanned poems about time and history, darkness and light. I could hear its timbre in spite of my headache and fogged brain.
I returned the book, Mysticism for Beginners, translated by Clare Cavanagh, c. 1997, but not before I had copied the selection below. I’m glad I have other volumes of his work that I was able to renew, to nourish me in my recuperation. I found this paragraph about him on the Poetry Foundation site:
“His view is a counterpoint to the current fashion of irony, which he decries. ‘I adore irony as a part of our rich rhetorical and mental apparatus, but not when it assumes the position of a spiritual guidance,’ he said. ‘How to cure it? I wish I knew. The danger is that we live in a world where there’s irony on one side and fundamentalism (religious, political) on the other. Between them the space is rather small, but it’s my space.’”
In the Romanesque church round stones
that ground down so many prayers and generations
kept humble silence and shadows slept in the apse
like bats in winter furs.
We went out. The pale sun shone,
tinny music tinkled softly
from a car, two jays
studied us, humans,
threads of longing dangled in the air.
The present moment is shameless,
taking its foolish liberties
beside the wall
of this tired old shrine,
awaiting the millions of years to come,
future wars, geological eras,
cease-fires, treaties, changes in climate —
this moment — what is it — just
a mosquito, a fly, a speck, a scrap of breath,
and yet it’s taken over everywhere,
entering the timid grass,
inhabiting stems and genes,
the pupils of our eyes.
This moment, mortal as you or I,
was full of boundless, senseless,
silly joy, as if it knew
something we didn’t.