Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Mr. Cogito On Upright Attitudes


In Utica
the citizens
don’t want to defend themselves

in town an epidemic broke out
of the instinct of self-preservation

the temple of freedom
has been changed into a flea market

the senate is deliberating
how not to be a senate

the citizens
don’t want to defend themselves
they are attending accelerated courses
on falling to the knees

passively they wait for the enemy
they write obsequious speeches
bury their gold

they sew new flags
innocently white
teach their children to lie

they have opened the gates
through which enters now
a column of sand

aside from that as usual
commerce and copulation


Mr Cogito
would like to stand up
to the situation

which means
to look fate
straight in the eyes

like Cato the Younger
see in the Lives

however he doesn’t have
a sword
nor the opportunity
to send his family overseas

therefore he waits like the others
walks back and forth in a sleepless room

despite the advice of the Stoics
he would like to have a body of diamond
and wings

he looks through the window
as the sun of the Republic
is about to set

little remained for him
in fact only
the choice of position
in which he wants to die

the choice of a gesture
choice of a last word

this is why he doesn’t go
to bed
in order to avoid
suffocation in sleep

to the end he would like
to stand up to the situation

fate looks him in the eyes
in the place where there was
his head

Zbigniew Herbert
Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Mr. Cogito on Upright Attitudes, Zbigniew Herbert | Leave a comment