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In that café in a foreign town bearing a French writer's

name I read Under the Volcano

but with diminishing interest. You should heal yourself,

I thought. I'd become a philistine.

Mexico was distant, and its vast stars

no longer shone for me. The day of the dead continued.

A feast of metaphors and light. Death played the lead.

Alongside a few patrons at the tables, assorted fates:

Prudence, Sorrow, Common Sense. The consul, Yvonne.

Rain fell. I felt a little happiness. Someone entered,

someone left, someone finally discovered the perpetuum mobile.

I was in a free country. A lonely country.

Nothing happened, the heavy artillery lay still.

The music was indiscriminate: pop seeped

from the speakers, lazily repeating: many things will happen.

No one knew what to do, where to go, why.

I thought of you, our closeness, the scent

of your hair in early autumn.

A plane ascended from the runway

like an earnest student who believes

the ancient masters' sayings.

Soviet cosmonauts insisted that they did not find

God in space, but did they look?

By Adam Zagajewski Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh