We usually catch only a few details —
grapes from the seventeenth century,
still fresh and gleaming,
perhaps a fine ivory fork,
or a cross's wood and drops of blood,
and great suffering that has already dried.
The shiny parquet creaks.
We're in a strange town —
almost always in a strange town.
Somewhere a guard stands and yawns.
An ash branch sways outside the window.
describing static paintings.
Scholars devote tomes to it.
But we're alive,
full of memory and thought,
love, sometimes regret,
and at moments we take a special pride
because the future cries in us
and its tumult makes us human.
"Describing Paintings" from Eternal Enemies by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Clare Cavanagh. Compilation copyright © 2008 by Adam Zagajewski. Translation copyright © 2008 by Clare Cavanagh. Used by kind permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All Rights Reserved.