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Last Sunday I decided to visit the diner. I watched Frida’s powdered sugar brow melt away atop my new friend Jay’s stack. I felt at home. I was there to return a fleece on my way through town. I stayed because of the energy of acceptance and community. It was no different from when I lived across the street a decade before. I stayed to read poetry and be surrounded by an eclectic collection of records and knicknacks. I stayed to smell the coffee in constant brew and to share Nodine’s thick cut artisan garlic bacon. I had biscuit and gravy and a rye Manhattan to complete my second breakfast of the morning. I was somehow waiting for “Maggotbrain” to be played next as the day had been in the realm of serendipitous, princess and carriage rides to boot.

A week later, as I begin to crawl out of the embarrassment and ignorance that engulfs me, I find strength in Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”. Calculated or fortuitous in timing, it does not matter. The moment could not have been better. This poem is an offering of hope as it reminds the listener of surrounding miracles. I attended church this morning and a thought that resonated with me was that while I may not be able to heal the world, I can help stop the bleeding. Zagajewski’s words are a balm unto earth’s scars.

This poem will forever evoke sentiments and memories of September eleventh, as that is when I first became familiar, when I felt so small. My feelings of fragility and anger began to vanish. In the contemplation of the resilience of others, brave and battered, I felt petty clinging to the negative. Now, I understand this to be a poem of supplication, the song of a caged bird, a call to action. Zagajewski acknowledges the experiences of the oppressed: You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere… He offers a revolution beginning in the mind when elsewise physically dormant and suppressed. What we give our attention to is what grows and nourishes us. He calls for praise to be the force that uplifts and frees change from becoming stagnant, beginning with the reflection of where delight has previously been found. Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

I did not save room for the nostalgic ice cream sandwich and draft root beer last weekend that I initially planned, leaving something for me to look forward to next time. I sat in front of the photo that held Sydney in a place of remembrance. And it worked. He was a homeless man that found a state of happiness in knowing we both had the same Burger King watch. I had forgotten how he reminded me that joy was everywhere, if only I was looking for it. He would’ve liked Adam Zagajewski and probably admired his watch.

One Response to “Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World””

  1. Beautifully done, Catherine. Thanks for this.

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