11 September 2001
At 8:45 all windows of the World Trade Center opened up to infinity
What did you do that day when Jeshua
Ben Joseph died? One could ask Barrabas
But where is he, who gave him a passport? Or
Ask that carpenter who stuck the nails
Into the hand and feet of the man condemned? Or
The skinhead who broke his shin-bone with
A baseball bat, saying, just for a joke, sorry, rabbi! What
Did you do on the day when Jeshua ben Joseph died?
What did you do on the day when the nuclear
Bomb fell on Hiroshima? Sándor Márai writes
In his Diary: in a shabby inn I was drinking wine
Leaning against the counter when a peasant
Suffering of periostatis said, moaning with pain:
The Americans already dropped it on Japan
One learns about the end of a certain epoch
While working on his plot or buying a warm jersey.
What did you do that day when John F.
Kennedy was killed? Most Americans, born
Lets say 20 years before that bad day
In Dallas, have an answer.
The triteness of these answers might hurt
Our intelligence, but what do you want? Lifes
Mundaneness has its truth, JFK before he was
Killed, straightened his silk tie and arranged his hair.
What did I do when the twin towers of the WTC
Fell? In Katowice, on a housing estate generally
Called Manhattan, I ate a so-called popular meal,
Good for my pocket, worse for the stomach. When
I started having my soup the first tower fell, finishing
The roast, the second. I wish it were different, but this is how it was.
When I returned home I switched on the TV,
And it was as if I opened the gas-tap! In the tightly
Closed room (not to waste even a gram of poison),
I breathed it in slowly, knowing from films and books
That if you want to die of gas you have to breathe in deeply.
And I said to myself at the same time: just sit and look
At that Arabic woman who stuck out her lily-like
Tongue and flicking it around screamed as if
Allah had given her the gift of an extraordinary, wild convulsion.
Get up and go, I said to myself, perhaps this is the Spirit of Truth,
The Archangel Gabriel blew his trumpet for the Last Judgement.
Translated from the Polish by George Gömöri