five poems / five days #9

Adam Zagajewski

Death of a Pianist

While others waged war
or sued for peace, or lay
in narrow beds in hospitals
or camps, for days on end

he practiced Beethoven’s sonatas,
and slim fingers, like a master’s,
touched great treasures
that weren’t his.

       (Trans. Clare Cavanagh)


A poem that makes my spine quiver. The opening stanza stages a violent, political landscape: waged war, sued for peace, hospital beds, and camps. Zagajewski is careful to show both sides of the political nature of war – waging and suing – as experiencing loss.

Perhaps, the connection between the hopeless state of war – “days on end” – among those embroiled in the conflict and the pianist at his instrument playing someone else’s music is that cause and effect is beyond one’s control. The pianist who only plays – or practices – the melodies and rhythms of others, regardless of the beauty or musicianship involved, will never find a unique and personal connection to music. And war – as we surely should have learned by now – has at least two losers.


DeadMule said...

How beautiful and how true; only those who have peace can share it.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

It is a beautiful work, Helen. Thanks for the read. Enjoying the latest DM.