Poem for Adults
Poem for Adults
“Poem for Adults” is one of the most remarkable, documents of our time; nothing that has yet appeared in print so fully reveals the despair felt by intellectuals and writers at having to live in the prison-house of totalitarianism.
“Poem for Adults” is one of the most remarkable, documents of our time; nothing that has yet appeared in print, except Czeslaw Milosz’ great book The Captive Mind, so fully reveals the despair felt by intellectuals and writers at having to live in the prison-house of totalitarianism.
Adam Wazyk belongs to the generation of Polish poets that started writing before the war. As soon as the Nazis were driven out of Poland, Wazyk helped found a literary weekly Kuznica (“The Smithy”) which became an aggressive spokesman for “socialist realism” in literature. For a time he was one of the most ardent defenders of the Polish Communist line in cultural matters.
The immediate conditions behind the publication of “Poem for Adults” are described in the Translator’s Note that follows the poem. We are grateful to the English monthly, The Twentieth Century, in which Lucian Blit’s excellent translation first appeared, for allowing us to make this profoundly moving work available to the American public.
I jumped by mistake on the wrong bus;
people sat as usual returning from work.
The bus swept down a strange road,
through Holy Cross Street. You are no longer a Holy Cross!
Where are your antique shops, your bookstalls and students?
Where are you, the dead?
Even your memory fades.
Then the bus stopped
at a little square which had been dug up.
The back of an old four-story house
stood waiting its fate.
I got off at the little square
in a working class quarter,
with memories shimmering from the grey walls.
People were hurrying home
and I dared not ask where I was.
Was I not here as a child, visiting the chemist?
I went home,
like a man who had gone out to buy medicine,
and returned twenty years later.
My wife asked: Where were you?
The children asked: Where were you?
I was silent, trembling like a mouse.
Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.
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