Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Small Heart by Zbigniew Herbert

A Small Heart

the bullet I fired
during the great war
went around the globe
and hit me in the back

at the least suitable moment
when I was already sure
I had forgotten it all—
his transgressions and mine

after all I like anyone else
wanted to erase the memory
of countenances of hatred

history consoled me
—I was battling violence
but the Book told me
—I was battling Cain

so many patient years
so many years in vain
I washed soot blood
hurt in mercy’s stream
so that noble beauty
the glory of existence
perhaps even the good
might have a home in me

after all I like anyone else
had a longing to return
to the bay of childhood
the country of innocence

the bullet I fired
from a low-caliber gun
despite laws of gravity
went around the globe
and hit me in the back
as if it wished to tell me
—nobody gets anything
for free

so now I sit in solitude
on a sawed-off tree trunk
in the exact center point
of the forgotten battle
gray spider I spin
bitter meditations

on memory too large
and a heart too small

(Translated by Alissa Valles)


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