Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mr Cogito’s Monster by Zbigniew Herbert

Mr Cogito’s Monster


The lucky Saint George

could judge the dragon’s

strength and movements

from his knightly saddle

strategy’s first principle

size up the enemy well

Mr Cogito’s position

is less advantageous

he’s seated in the low

saddle of the valley
wrapped in thick fog

in the fog you can’t make out

the burning eyes

the greedy claws

the maw

in the fog

you see only

the flickering of nothingness

Mr Cogito’s monster

lacks all dimensions

it’s hard to describe

it eludes definitions

it’s like a vast depression

hanging over the country

it can’t be pierced

by a pen

an argument

a spear

if not for its stifling weight

and the death it sends

you might conclude

that it was a phantom

a disease of the imagination

but it’s there

it’s there all right

it fills crannies of houses

temples bazaars like gas

it poisons the wells
destroys a mind’s constructs

covers the bread with mold

proof the monster exists

is offered by its victims

indirect proof

but sufficient


the sensible say

you can coexist

with the monster

just try to avoid

violent gestures

violent speech

when threatened

take on the form

of a stone or leaf

obey wise Nature

who urges mimicry

breathe shallowly

play we’re not here

Mr Cogito however

dislikes living as-if

he’d like to fight

the monster

on solid ground

so he goes out at dawn
to the sleeping suburbs

intrepidly fitted out

with a long sharp object

he calls to the monster

through empty streets

he insults the monster

provokes the monster

like the daredevil scout

of a non-existent army

he calls—
come out you dirty coward

through the fog

you see only

the huge mug of nothingness

Mr Cogito wants to

join the unequal fray

this should happen

as soon as possible

before he is felled

by powerlessness

common death without glory

suffocation by shapelessness

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