By Adam Zagajewski
Bent under burdens which sometimes
can be seen and sometimes can't,
they trudge through mud or desert sands,
silent men in heavy jackets,
dressed for all four seasons,
old women with crumpled faces,
clutching something--a child, the family
lamp, the last loaf of bread?
It could be Bosnia today,
Poland in September '39, France
eight months later, Thuringia in '45,
Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt.
There's always a wagon or at least a wheelbarrow
full of treasures (a quilt, a silver cup,
the fading scent of home),
a car out of gas marooned in a ditch,
a horse (soon left behind), snow, a lot of snow,
too much snow, too much sun, too much rain,
and always that distinctive hunch
as if leaning towards another, better planet,
with less ambitious generals,
less snow, less wind, fewer cannons,
less History (alas, there's no
such planet, just that hunch).
Shuffling their feet,
they move slowly, very slowly
toward the country of nowhere,
and the city of no one
on the river of never.
-Translated by Clare Cavanagh