Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fortune-telling by Zbigniew Herbert

All the lines descend into the valley of the palm
into a hollow where bubbles a small spring of fate
Here is the life line Look it races like an arrow
the horizon of five fingers brightened by its stream
which surges forth overthrowing obstacles
and nothing is more beautiful more powerful
than this striving forward

How helpless compared to it is the line of fidelity
Like a cry in the night a river in the desert
Conceived in the sand and perishing in the sand
Maybe deeper under the skin it continues further
parts the tissue of muscles and enters the arteries
so that we might meet at night our dead
down inside where memory and blood
flow in mineshafts wells chambers
full of dark names

This hill was not here--after all I remember
there was a nest of tenderness as round as if
a hot tear of lead had fallen on my hand
After all I remember hair the shadow of a cheek
frail fingers and the weight of a sleeping head

Who destroyed the nest who heaped up
the mound of indifference which was not here
Why do you press your palm to your eyes
We tell fortunes Who are we to know

Taken from the book "Zbigniew Herbert - The collected poems 1956-1998", Harper Collins. Translated by Alissa Valles

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