Clare Cavanagh is Frances Hooper Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern.
 (November 2017)



He’ll leave behind dozens of books, a couple of engravings, a green coat, one quilt, seven shirts, and a few other objects. —Leszek Kolakowski You open your hand cautiously, it’s blind and dumb. Shameless, stripped bare. Stamped, entered in the records. Spinoza’s friends are gone now, so are those …

Some Advice for the New Government

We have a new government. Our new government includes many gifted ministers. One of our ministers speaks English. Our new government has set to work energetically. Unfortunately, it is less than aggressive in a situation permitting so many unregenerate liberals to persist: in some cities they even outnumber traditional Catholic …


In memory of Ruth Buczyńska She survived the war in Tarnopol. In darkness and semi-darkness. In fear. She was afraid of rats and heavy boots, loud conversations, screams. She died just now, in darkness, in a hospital ward’s white quiet. She was a Jew. Sometimes she didn’t …


My fallen, my turned to dust, my earth,
assumes the shape he has in the photograph:
with a leaf’s shadow on his face, with a seashell in his hand,
he sets out toward my dream.

He wanders through darknesses extinguished since never,
through emptinesses opened to themselves forever,
through seven times seven times seven silences.

Hard Life with Memory

I’m a poor audience for my memory. She wants me to attend her voice nonstop, but I fidget, fuss, listen and don’t, step out, come back, then leave again. She wants all my time and attention. She’s got no problem when I …

Two Poems by Adam Zagajewski

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 …


So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum in painted quiet and concentration keeps pouring milk day after day from the pitcher to the bowl the World hasn’t earned the world’s end.