A Mr. Cogito's Soul

By Zbigniew Herbert

Mr. Cogito's Soul
In the past
we know from history
she would go out from the body
when the heart stopped

with the last breath
she went quietly away
to the blue meadows of heaven

   Mr. Cogito's soul
   acts differently

   during his life she leaves his body
   without a word of farewell

   for months for years she lives
   on different continents
   beyond the frontiers
   of Mr. Cogito

   it is hard to locate her address
   she sends no news of herself
   avoids contacts
   doesn't write letters

   no one knows when she will return
   perhaps she has left forever

Mr. Cogito struggles to overcome
the base feeling of jealousy

He thinks well of his soul
thinks of her with tenderness

undoubtedly she must live also
in the bodies of others

certainly there are too few souls
for all humanity

Mr. Cogito accepts his fate
he has no other way out

he even attempts to say—my own soul mine
he thinks of his soul affectionately

he thinks of his soul with tenderness
therefore when she appears
he doesn't welcome her with the words
—it's good you've come back

he only looks at her from an angle
as she sits before the mirror
combing her hair
tangled and grey

(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter, and used with permission)