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The Poppies’ Fragile Glory
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Published: Sun Apr 15 2001
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The Poppies’ Fragile Glory

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?


Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet. He has published over 20 books of poetry and essays, many of which have been translated into other languages. Recent translations of his work into English include A Defense of Ardor: Essays (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2005) and Eternal Enemies: Poems (FSG 2009). (2010)

Clare Cavanagh is a specialist in modern Russian and Polish poetry. She has won numerous awards for her translation of Polish poetry and is currently working on a biography of the poet Czesław Miłosz. (2010)

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