Try To Praise the Mutilated World (Adam Zagajewski)

August 5, 2008

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
on of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going 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 gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

* * *

I finally got a hold of a collection of Zagajewski’s poems (Without End: New and Selected Poems) which I’ve been chewing on these last few weeks. Zagajewski was part of a movement in Poland in the late 60s called the New Wave which I know very little about, just that their poetry is often characterized as “straight-talk,” and was an attempt to subvert governmental propaganda.

Zagajewski’s variations on the title here are interesting, at least in translation: “Try…you must…you should…praise the mutilated world.” Why? Because to simply condemn it denies its beauty, a beauty made possible only in the midst of mutilation. Because like light we too stray and vanish and return–sometimes mutilated ourselves–and are familiar with the earth’s scars, which are our own. How? By remembering. And not just remembering our ideas, or our beliefs, or the facts, but the details of life as it comes to us.

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