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The Poppies’ Fragile Glory

by Adam Zagajewski

translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

Asphalt melting in the sun beneath a bike’s thin wheel
and the cry of birds in roadside trees
(they held cherries, unripe and hard).
Can you forgive?
Perhaps wolves still lived in the black forests.
The grain was green, larks were laughing,
below them, the poppies’ fragile glory,
wooden churches, wayside shrines
with wildflowers drying into herbs,
water from a little spring smelled like a promise.
And finally the expedition’s goal—
a hill with a triangulated tower, transfixed
and tenderly observing the mild sky.
Can you forgive time for
this trick, this treachery?


Clare Cavanagh is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages at Northwestern University. She translated the works of Wislawa Symborska (with Stanislaw Baranczak) and Adam Zagajewski. Her book Poetry and Power: Russia, Poland and the West is forthcoming from Yale University Press. (2001)

Adam Zagajewski has three collections of poetry in English translation: Tremor (1985), Canvas (1991), and Mysticism for Beginners (1998; co-tr. Clare Cavanagh). His prose in English includes Solidarity, Solitude: Essays (1990), Two Cities (1993), and, most recently, In the Beauty of the Other (2000), all with Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His Selected Poems (tr. Clare Cavanagh) is forthcoming in fall 2001, also from FSG. He divides his time between Paris, Krakow, and Houston, where he teaches creative writing at the University of Houston. (2001)

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