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By Adam Zagajewski

Translated by Clare Cavanagh

The day was mild, the light was generous.
The German on the café terrace
held a small book on his lap.
I caught sight of the title:
Mysticism for Beginners.
Suddenly I understood that the swallows
patrolling the streets of Montepulciano
with their shrill whistles,
and the hushed talk of timid travelers
from Eastern, so-called Central Europe,
and the white herons standing—yesterday? the day before?—
like nuns in fields of rice,
and the dusk, slow and systematic,
erasing the outlines of medieval houses,
and olive trees on little hills,
abandoned to the wind and heat,
and the head of the Unknown Princess
that I saw and admired in the Louvre,
and stained-glass windows like butterfly wings
sprinkled with pollen,
and the little nightingale practicing
its speech beside the highway,
and any journey, any kind of trip,
are only mysticism for beginners,
the elementary course, prelude
to a test that’s been
postponed.
 


Adam Zagajewski, "Mysticism for Beginners" from Without End: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC,  http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved.

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Source: Without End: New and Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

  • Activities
  • Nature
  • Religion

Poet Bio

Adam Zagajewski
Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1945; as an infant he was relocated with his family to western Poland. He lived in Berlin for a couple of years, moved to France in 1982, and taught at universities in the United States, including the University of Houston and the University of Chicago. Zagajewski writes in Polish; many of his books of poetry and essays have been translated into English. He died on March 21, 2021 in Krakow, Poland. See More By This Poet

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