• Email
  • Print

Two Poems by Zbigniew Herbert

AN ANSWER

This will be a night in deep snow
which has the power to muffle steps
in deep shadow transforming
bodies to two puddles of darkness
we lie holding our breath
and even the slightest whisper of thought

if we are not tracked down by wolves
and the man in a Russian sheepskin who swings
quick-firing death on his chest
we must spring and run
in the clapping of short dry salvos
to that other longed-for shore

the earth is the same everywhere
wisdom teaches everywhere the man
weeps with white tears
mothers rock their children
the moon rises
and builds a white house for us

this will be night after hard reality
a conspiracy of the imagination
it has a taste of bread and lightness of vodka
but the choice to remain here
is confirmed by every dream about palm trees

the dream is interrupted suddenly by the arrival of three
tall men of rubber and iron
they will check your name your fear
order you to go downstairs
they won’t allow you to take anything
but the compassionate face of the janitor

Hellenic Roman Medieval
East Indian Elizabethan Italian
perhaps above all French
a bit of Weimar and Versailles
we carry so many homelands
on the shoulders of a single earth

but the only one guarded
by the most singular number
is here where they will trample you into the ground
or with boldly ringing spade
make a large pit for your longing
(1957)

WE FALL ASLEEP ON WORDS…

We fall asleep on words
we wake in words

sometimes they are gentle
simple nouns
a forest a ship

they tear themselves from us
the forest goes quickly
behind the line of the horizon

the ship sails away
without a trace or a reason

dangerous are the words
which have fallen from a whole
fragments of sentences maxims
the beginning of a refrain
of a forgotten hymn

“saved will be those who…”
“remember to…”
or “like”
a small prickly pin
that connected
the most beautiful
lost metaphor of the world

one must dream patiently
hoping the content will become complete
that the missing words
will enter their crippled sentences
and the certainty we wait for
will cast anchor
(1969)

  • Email
  • Print