Sunrise Over Cassis

Listen to Adam Zagajewski read this poem. In the semi-darkness white buildings loom, not fully formulated, and beside them, the gray vineyards, the quiet before dawn; Judas counts his silver coins, but olive trees contorted in wild prayer enter the earth ever more deeply. Where is the sun! But it’s still cold and a humble landscape spreads around us; the stars have gone and priests sleep greedily, birds aren’t allowed to sing before August and only now and then one stammers like a lazy boy in high school Latin. It’s four a.m. and despair lives in so many houses. This is the time when sad philosophers with narrow faces compose their jaded aphorisms and worn conductors, who’d brought Bruckner and Mahler back to life that evening, drift off to sleep unwilling, unapplauded, and whores go home to their shabby apartments.

                                          We ask that the vineyards,
gray as if coated with volcanic ash, be given life,
and that the great distant cities awaken from their apathy,
and I ask not to confuse freedom with chaos
and to regain the faith that unites
things seen and unseen, but doesn’t lull the heart.
Beneath us the sea turns blue and the horizon’s line
grows ever finer, like a slender fillet
that embraces, lovingly and firmly, our turning planet,
and we see fishing boats rock trustfully like gulls
upon the deep, blue waters and a moment later
the sun’s crimson disc emerges from a half-circle of hills
and returns the gift of light.