Reply Fri 16 Mar, 2007 12:03 pm
by Adam Zagajewski
Post date: 03.11.07
Issue date: 03.19.07

The sun sets and prying pelicans fly just above the sea's
smooth skin;
you watch a fisherman killing a caught fish, invincibly
convinced of his humanity,
while rosy clouds commence their slow, solemn
march to the night's foothills--
you stay a moment, waiting to see dolphins
--maybe they'll dance their famous friendly tango once again--
here, on the Gulf of Mexico, where you find tire marks
and mussels along the broad beaches,
and energetic crabs that exit the sand like workers deserting
a subterranean factory en masse.
You notice abandoned, rusty loading towers.
You walk along a stone lock and wave to a few anglers,
modest types, fishing not for sport, just in hope
of postponing the last supper.
A vast, brick-red ship from Monrovia sails up
the port canal
like some bizarre imaginary beast boasting
of its own oddness,
and briefly blocks the horizon.
You think: it's worth seeking the backwaters, provincial spots
that remember much, but are uncommonly discreet,
quiet, humble places, rich, though, in caches, hidden pockets of memory
like hunters' jackets in the fall,
the bustling town's outskirts, wastelands where nothing happens,
there are no famous actors,
politicians and journalists don't appear,
but sometimes poetry is born in emptiness,
and you start to think that your childhood
halted here,
here, far from long-familiar streets--
since absence after all can't calculate distance
in light years or kilometers,
instead it calmly waits for your return, doubtless wondering
what's become of you. It meets you without fanfare and says:
Don't you know me? I'm a stamp from your vanished
I'm the stamp that showed you
your first dolphin on a backdrop of unreal, misty blue. I'm the sign of travel.

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

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