Monday, July 14, 2014

Mr Cogito Reads the Newspaper by Zbigniew Herbert

Mr Cogito Reads the Newspaper

The front page reports
120 soldiers were killed

the war was long
you get used to it

right next to this news
of a spectacular crime
with the killer’s photo

Mr Cogito’s gaze
moves with indifference
over the soldiers’ hecatomb
to plunge with great relish
into the quotidian macabre

a thirty-year-old farmworker
in a state of manic depression
murdered his own wife
and two small children

we are told the exact
way they were killed
the position of bodies
and the other details

it’s no use trying to find
120 lost men on a map
a distance too remote
hides them like a jungle

they don’t speak to the imagination
there are too many of them
the numeral zero on the end
turns them into an abstraction

a theme for further reflection:
the arithmetic of compassion

(Translated by Alissa Valles)

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