Saturday Poem

Kant, Last days

It is truly no evidence of a great soul
—O nature—
and if you aren’t magnanimous
it may be you don’t exist at all

Could you really not treat him to a sudden death
like a candle guttering
like a wig slipping off
like a ring’s short trip on a smooth tabletop
spinning and turning
at last standing still like a dead
Why these cruel games
with an old man
loss of memory
dull awakenings
nocturnal terror
wasn’t it he who said
“beware of bad dreams”
he who has a gray glacier on his head
a volcano where a pocket-watch should be

It is in terrible taste
to condemn a man
learning the trade of apparitions
suddenly to become
a ghost

by Zbigniew Herbert
Poetry, January 2007
Poetry Magazine