Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory
Shadows lounged in the streets, haugty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.
Professors left their school with vacant faces
as if the Illiad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren’t there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.
Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city’s opaque demon,
like a poor traveller stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September’s black rain falling.
Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn’t penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
Adam Zagajewski, Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh, Partisan Review, Spring 1998.