Zbigniew Herbert

(29 October 1924 – 28 July 1998 / Lvov)

Three Poems By Heart - Poem by Zbigniew Herbert

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 a forehead of air
a man's silhouette of black paper

II

living--despite
living- -against
I reproach myself for the sin of forgetfulness

you left an embrace like a superfluous sweater
a look like a question

our hands won't transmit the shape of your hands
we squander them touching ordinary things

calm as a mirror
not mildewed with breath
the eyes will send back the question

every day I renew my sight
every day my touch grows
tickled by the proximity of so many things

life bubbles over like blood
Shadows gently melt
let us not allow the dead to be killed--

perhaps a cloud will transmit remembrance--
a worn profile of Roman coins

III

the women on our street
were plain and good
they patiently carried from the markets
bouquets of nourishing vegetables

the children on our street
scourge of cats

the pigeons--

softly gray

a Poet's statue was in the park
children would roll their hoops
and colorful shouts
birds sat on the Poet's hand
read his silence

on summer evenings wives
waited patiently for lips
smelling of familiar tobacco

women could not answer
their children: will he return
when the city was setting
they put the fire out with hands
pressing their eyes

the children on our street
had a difficult death
pigeons fell lightly
like shot down air

now the lips of the Poet
form an empty horizon
birds children and wives cannot live
in the city's funereal shells
in cold eiderdowns of ashes

the city stands over water
smooth as the memory of a mirror
it reflects in the water from the bottom

and flies to a high star
where a distant fire is burning
like a page of the Iliad


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Read poems about / on: city, mirror, children, women, memory, water, fire, star, silence, summer, death, heart, cat, child, woman



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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