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Buttons

   To the memory of Captain Edward Herbert

Only the buttons were relentless
and outlasted death the witnesses to the crime
working their way from the depths they climb
to the top the only monument on the grave’s surface

they are to bear witness
God will count them and take pity
but how can they be resurrected what rebirth
of the flesh when they are a gluey patch of earth

a bird flies overhead a cloud sails by
a leaf falls mallows are germinating
silence reigns in the sky
and over the Smolensk forest fog floats

only the buttons were relentless
the powerful voice of choruses now voiceless
only the buttons were relentless
buttons from uniforms and coats

(Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter)

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