DECEMBER 30, 1996
Some people flee some other people.
In some country under a sun
and some clouds.
They abandon something like all they’ve got,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now preens.
Their shoulders bear pitchers and bundles.
The emptier they get, the heavier they grow.
What happens quietly: someone’s dropping from exhaustion.
What happens loudly: someone’s bread is ripped away,
someone tries to shake a limp child back to life.
Always another wrong road ahead of them,
always another wrong bridge
across another oddly reddish river.
Around them, some gunshots, now nearer, now farther away,
above them a plane sort of circles.
Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or, better yet, some nonexistence
for a shorter or a longer while.
Something else will happen, only where and what.
Someone will come at them, only when and who,
in how many shapes, with what intentions.
If he has a choice,
maybe he won’t be the enemy
and will let them live some sort of life.
—Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.
This poem appeared in the December 30, 1996 issue of the magazine.