Disgusted with all life, I withdrew into the world of stone; here,
I thought, set free, from on high but without pride, I shall survey those entangled
things. With an eye of stone, myself a stone among stones and, like them, responsive,
pulsing after the sun in orbit. Retreating deep into my stone-self:
no stir, no hum; cooling; present at the extinguishing of presence, caught in the cold
attractions of the moon. Waning in the waste of the hourglass—steady,
unceasing, indifferent—a grain, one by one. Yet, subject
only to rhythms of day and night. But,
nothing of dance therein, no whirling frenzies: solely a rule of silence.
They don’t become, they are. And nothing more, I thought, being disgusted
with all things becoming.
Myself a stone among stones—O, never did I think
of stone in words of death. I always felt the heart within it—pulsing
life—and not in its outer structures, which breed awe
in gawkers, photographers, mineralogists . . . Simply: the heart of stone. Simply:
the dreams of stone. To be within the heart of stone—how much I longed for this!
In the heart of stone, without the waste that through polluted veins
slops deep into our hearts and grows, making them matter rotted through,
subject to all corruption.
The dreams of stone—how I longed to see the dreams
of stone, with its stone gaze. Perhaps, a child—a little one,
no more a palpitating sponge of meat but not yet human—
perhaps in its eye, for a mere blink, there is the dream of stone; not even dream
but gleam, its distant and receding echo. O,
how I longed to be in the thought of stone, be that which thinks its thoughts. Or,
cursed from the first, cast out from stone, how I longed to touch
the thought of stone, as I would touch the petals of a rose, careful lest she should feel
my fleshy fingertips, the fingers of a usurper—
disgusted, she might die.
The thought of stone and rose, are they akin
in that brief season when the rose is still implicate wisdom,
yet open to love? Eros, agape—thus will I name it in the dark tongue
of men, tongue without eyes—no, eyes always gouged anew;
snail-like these words, whispered to our cannibalistic lips
by a brain blood-fed, subject to soiling, decay, rot—with rot, decay
infecting all it grasps.
What is erosion to a stone?
I thought. What the decay of inner structures? The heart of stone—
not found in structures, or relations, of space-time—lavish,
rebuilds forms that time, in impotence, destroys. The heart of stone—
not subject to decay, the death of all things that become. Armored
and sovereign monad.
It was not the riches of its inner world that I envied stone.
Nor sought a conch, to hide and sate a mollusk’s sense with food of hues.
Why would a stone need riches? Surely, in riches we have outstripped
the stones, through millennia of dwelling on the earth. But what are riches to them?
Poor is their inner world, as we so poorly name it with our tongue’s
gouged-out eyes. Yet, all is pure there, and pure sense, all there is all.
And only there. If God is, he is there. Within the heart of stones. And in their dreams.
Even the tree, most perfect creature of the demiurge
before he fell asleep, when he but nodded on that brink where
a boy’s face inclines, worn out by stammering over a book upon a desk—
that brink from which we’re implacably dragged down into the dark, down into dark
from which we arose, obtrusively arise; again, even the tree,
even when it—a bruiser—bores, and bursts the stone with wild root
rank with filthiness and worms; when it extracts from mother earth,
and shamelessly brings to light, her lovely dreams: foliage, fowl and seed,
always prepared for flight, for whirling, frenzy; again, even the tree,
—most lovely notion of the demiurge, upon the brink of sleep—
what can even it do to stone?
Perhaps, in a flash of insight,
the wildest creature, in whom was placed an awful spark of genius
(how out of place it feels! how it wishes to be snuffed!), perhaps a man enlightened,
foresees it, as he draws near in toil (but without murmur or pride?)
as a sculptor whose chisel, raised, the voice of stone restrains:
Halt here, this is your threshold, just one mark more and you will be cast out,
with no return.
Thus did I think of stone. And, loving all
that is not even stone’s negation (worse: otherness, all
subject to corruption, transience, death and—worse than this—to
resurrection), since I was sensuous down to my marrow’s marrow
and loved my senses, loved my skin entire, and every skin as far
as fiery hate: the heart of stone was closed to me with all
Now comes old age. Aetas serenitatis. Thus, being disgusted with
the living world—its beauty turned towards death, wasting, and to arising
from the dead in worms, in sorrel and in mulch for peasant hands—thus
I fled into the world of stone; thus, a stone among stones, shedding pride
yet from on high, slowly to close my eyes—not yet of stone, although no longer human—
upon your torments, tenderness and works, those agonies
of yours, on all subject to permanent pollution:
on this our torment, this abjection, this debasement, this our mercy,
our beauty like the radiant eyes in a hydrocephalic
When, having fled into the world of stone, I slowly nodded, having placed
a stone beneath my head, feeling its warm heart permeate my skull,
render it alike, a twin; when, on the brink of sleep, whence,
weighed by darkness, we incline into a deeper dark; when there I dreamed—look,
even I, stone among stones, like them raised up but without pride, by tension
of taut forces paralyzed, tension that hangs crushed in the moon’s
stone fist, above a barren landscape—
I was awoken by the noise of those
I had survived.
They did not surround me, in two rows; nor should I pass them
in the royal coach of a survivor; they wore no festive gowns,
there were no wreathes upon their heads—naked, though shapely, clad in a deluge
of clay; as, in Pompeii, that man had only time to bend his brow,
in wonder raised, to nail his gaze, mortally spent, into the earth
that had betrayed him.
Remember! Remember! They cry, wanting to be forgotten.
Remember! They cry, wanting perpetual forgetfulness. Our hell—
in the memory of those who will survive us.
Chased by the dogs of noise and lies
of those I had survived, descending scree, and having lost
all I had known, in hard descent down from the mountains—I am, once more,
the one I am.
Translated from the Polish by Jakob Ziguras