This poem often comes to mind when I read an article about suffering, see a New York Times Photo of the Day that makes me want to cry, hear about another, unexpected natural disaster… so almost daily, really. I first read it many years ago, and I haven’t forgotten it since. The author, Adam Zagajewski, is a great Polish poet born in 1945. This poem was actually made “famous,” so to speak when the New Yorker published it shortly after 9/11.
“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”–Adam Zagajewski
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes