Zbigniew Herbert: Awakening

Awakening (Inscription, 1969)

When the horror subsided the floodlights went out
we discovered that we were on a rubbish-heap in very strange poses
some with outstretched necks
others with open mouths from which still trickled my native land
and others with fists pressed to eyes
cramped emphatically pathetically taut
in our hands we held pieces of sheet iron and bones
(the floodlights had transformed them into symbols)
but now they were no more than sheet iron and bones

We had nowhere to go we stayed on the rubbish-heap
we tidied things up
the bones and sheet iron we deposited in an archive

we listened to the chirping of streetcars to a swallow-like voice of factories
and a new life was unrolling at our feet


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