Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems 1956–1998 was published in English in 2007. The poem in this issue was prepared for a Polish edition of Herbert’s uncollected poems edited by Ryszard Krynicki. (June 2013)

From An Unwritten Theory of Dreams

The torturers sleep soundly their dreams are rosy
good-natured genocides—foreign and home-grown
already forgiven by brief human memory
a gentle breeze turns the pages of family albums
the windows of the house open to August the shade of an apple-tree in bloom

Leonardo’s Disquiet

“Writing,” wrote Zbigniew Herbert, “must teach men soberness: to be awake.” One of Poland’s greatest poets, Herbert (1924–1998) was also a prolific essayist, and with the publication of his Collected Prose this week we can take in the full range of his brisk, erudite work.

The End

And from now on I won’t be there in any group picture (proud proof of my death in the world’s book reviews) when someone says look see—that’s Zbyszek—pointing to a man struggling with a suitcase—it isn’t me no it’s someone who’s not even in the same …

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 …

Mr. Cogito. Ars Longa

1 Bombastic manifestoes civil warfare pitched battles campaigns filled Mr. Cogito with boredom in every generation appear those who wish to snatch poetry from the claws of everydayness with stubbornness worthy of a better cause …

Two Poems

THREE POEMS BY HEART I I can’t find the title of a memory about you with a hand torn from darkness I step on fragments of faces soft friendly profiles frozen into a hard contour          circling above my head          empty as …

Three Poems

A NATIVE DEVIL 1 He came from the West, at the beginning of the tenth century. At first he was brimming with energy and ideas. The clatter of his hooves could be heard everywhere, the air smelled of brimstone. This virginal country, closer to hell than heaven, seemed to be …

Achilles. Penthesilea

When Achilles with his short sword pierced the breast of Penthesilea and as usual twisted the blade thrice in the wound, he noticed that the queen of the Amazons was lovely. He laid her carefully on the sand, took off her heavy helmet, unclasped her hair, …

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 …

Mass for the Imprisoned

Should this be an offering for my imprisoned let it be in an improper place low very low without marble music gold incense white best at a clay pit beneath an unruly willow when rain turns to sleet …

Transformations of Livy

How did they understand Livy my grandfather my great grandfather certainly they read him in high school at the not very propitious time of the year when a chestnut stands in the window—fervent candelabras of blooms— all the thoughts of grandfather and great grandfather running …

Report from a Besieged City

Too old to carry arms and to fight like others— they generously assigned to me the inferior role of a chronicler I record—not knowing for whom—the history of the siege I have to be precise but I don’t know when the invasion began two …