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Poetry

Music Heard with You

By Adam Zagajewski
Translated from Polish by Clare Cavanagh
Great Polish poet Adam Zagajewski pens a beautiful ode to music and memory.

Music I heard with you was more than music . . .

Music heard with you
will stay forever with us.

Grave Brahms and elegaic Schubert,
a few songs, Chopin’s third sonata,

a couple of quartets with heart-
breaking chords (Beethoven, adagia),

the sadness of Shostakovich that
didn’t want to die.

The great choruses of Bach’s Passions,
as if someone had summoned us,

demanding joy,
pure and disinterested,

joy in which faith
is self-evident.

Some scraps of Lutoslawski
as fugitive as our thoughts.

A black woman singing blues
ran through us like shining steel,

even though it reached us on the street
of an ugly, dirty town.

Mahler’s endless marches,
the trumpet’s voice opening Symphony no. 5

and the first part of the Ninth
(you sometimes call him “malheur!”).

Mozart’s despair in the Requiem,
his buoyant piano concertos—

you hummed them better than I did,
but we both know that.

Music heard with you
will grow still with us.

© Adam Zagajewski. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2004 by Clare Cavanagh. All rights reserved.

English

Music I heard with you was more than music . . .

Music heard with you
will stay forever with us.

Grave Brahms and elegaic Schubert,
a few songs, Chopin’s third sonata,

a couple of quartets with heart-
breaking chords (Beethoven, adagia),

the sadness of Shostakovich that
didn’t want to die.

The great choruses of Bach’s Passions,
as if someone had summoned us,

demanding joy,
pure and disinterested,

joy in which faith
is self-evident.

Some scraps of Lutoslawski
as fugitive as our thoughts.

A black woman singing blues
ran through us like shining steel,

even though it reached us on the street
of an ugly, dirty town.

Mahler’s endless marches,
the trumpet’s voice opening Symphony no. 5

and the first part of the Ninth
(you sometimes call him “malheur!”).

Mozart’s despair in the Requiem,
his buoyant piano concertos—

you hummed them better than I did,
but we both know that.

Music heard with you
will grow still with us.

© Adam Zagajewski. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2004 by Clare Cavanagh. All rights reserved.

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