Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tremors in the morning

I get up in the morning on a clear day. I tell myself my head is clear too. Maybe it's true. The body is its own master, taking comfort in the routine senseless repetition of events -- grinding the coffee beans, heating the water, filling the carafe, shuffling around the kitchen like an old man. Sometimes I feel old, but that was true even when I was young. In high school, one of my teachers caught me sitting with my back to her fireplace. "When you're young," she said, "you should face the fire and see in it your dreams. Old men sit like you."

I sip the coffee and read some of Zagajewski's poems, loitering in the translated verse like a bystander witnessing a live birth. I lose track of which words are his and which are mine. Curiosity outlasts love. I nod in agreement.

Earlier this year, the FAA altered the flight patterns approaching Newark, now the first planes taking off today roar overhead. Why in the world do people still write poems? Why do I still read them, now, forty years out of adolescence, citizen of a world dominated -- no, created -- by science?

Only sometimes, and often by accident, does art transform pain into beauty, Adam, as you well know. But it does not cure the illness that causes pain. Clear moments are so short. I hear his voice, the reedy sing-song lilt of his heavily accented English. There is more ocean than firm land. A sensation comes back to me, barely strong enough to qualify as a memory. I was in Krakow, sitting outside in the Rynek Główny, drinking a beer, eating pierogis filled with mushrooms and cabbage, watching innumerable young people heading somewhere else, dragging behind them long shadows. It was a day like today, clear, cool but not uncomfortable, and the rest of the family had gone to the station to take a train back to Warsaw. This that lies heavy and weighs down. I felt it but I could not tell if it was a stone or an anchor.

Not a day has gone by without pain or beauty. I wash the dishes and wipe the counter, watch the sky lighten in the east, and listen to the school buses coming up the hill. I put the book of poems back on the shelf. It is time to get ready and go to work. And these useless hours of my life, when you and I converse across the years, outside time, beyond the geography of the moment?

My back hurts and my heart is racing. I don't know what will become of them.


  1. Jesus, Paul. I just hope that somewhere you're writing your own poems.
    Some of us are waiting to read them.

  2. Thank you for the compliment, David. I'll post some poems soon.

  3. Do you think science created the world or does science feebly try to explain it? Like you, I wish we could produce quieter cleaner jets. We need more poets who can inspire scientists and technologists with the right priorities.