At Daybreak


From the train window at daybreak,
I saw empty cities sleeping,
sprawled defenselessly on their backs
like great beasts.
Through the vast squares, only my thoughts
and a biting wind wandered;
linen flags fainted on towers,
birds started to wake in the trees,
and in the thick pelts of the parks
stray cats' eyes gleamed.
The shy light of morning, eternal
debutante, was reflected in shop windows.
Carousels, finally possessing themselves, spun
like prayer wheels on their invisible fulcrums;
gardens fumed like Warsaw's smoldering ruins.
The first van hadn't arrived yet
at the brown slaughterhouse wall.
Cities at daybreak are no one's,
and have no names.
And I, too, have no name,
dawn, the stars growing pale,
the train picking up speed.


      Polish; trans. Renata Gorczynski,
          Benjamin Ivry & C.K. Williams


Adam Zagajewski, Polish, trans. Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry & C.K. Williams, Without End: New and Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003.