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Two Poems by Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

SELF-PORTRAIT IN A LITTLE MUSEUM

A swarthy Christ watched me
from small trecento paintings;
I didn’t understand his gaze,
but I wanted to open up before it.
A rapt, darked-haired Christ,
unswervingly attentive,
bounded by Byzantium’s gold frame,
watched me while my thoughts
were elsewhere—
I followed, with growing vexation,
an elderly couple, French:
in the quiet museum, nearly empty,
he read out loud, too loud,
from the appropriate page in the guidebook.

NOW THAT YOU’VE LOST YOUR MEMORY

To my Father

Now that you’ve lost your memory
and can only smile, defenseless,
I want to help—it was you,
after all, who opened my imagination like a demiurge.
I remember our excursions, woolly clouds
swimming low over a damp mountain forest
(you knew every path in those woods), and
the summer day when we scaled the heights
of a lighthouse above the Baltic
and we watched the endless rippling of the sea,
its white stitches frayed like basted seams.
I won’t forget that moment, I think you were
moved too—we seemed to see the whole world,
boundless, calmly breathing, blue and perfect,
at once distinct and hazy, near and distant;
we felt the planet’s roundness, we heard the gulls,
who played at aimless gliding
through warm and chilly currents of the air.
I can’t help you, I have only one memory.

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