Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Abyss of Mr Cogito by Zbigniew Herbert

The Abyss of Mr Cogito


At home it is always safe

but just beyond the door

as soon as Mr Cogito

leaves for a walk in the morning

he encounters—an abyss 


it is not the abyss of Pascal

it is not the abyss of Dostoevsky

it is an abyss

to Mr Cogito’s measure   


its particular features

are not bottomlessness

or the terror it causes 


it follows him like a shadow

stops at the bakery

in the part it reads the newspaper

over Mr Cogito’s shoulder


as bothersome as eczema

attached to him like a dog

too shallow to engulf him

head arms and legs


one day perhaps

the abyss will grow up

the abyss will mature

and become serious


if only he knew

what water it drinks

what grain to feed it 



Mr Cogito

could gather

a few handfuls of sand

fill it up

but does not do this 



he returns home

he leaves the abyss

just outside the door

covering it carefully

with a small piece of old cloth


(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)

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