Small Heart


















–for Jan Jozef Szczepanski




The bullet that I shot

at the time of the great war

made a circle around the globe

and struck me in the back


at the least suitable moment

when I was already sure

I had forgotten everything

his-my faults


after all just like others

I wanted to erase from memory

the faces of hatred


history consoled me

that I had fought with naked force

and the Book said

–it is he who is Cain



so many years patiently

so many years in vain

with water of compassion I washed away

soot blood insults

so nobility

the beauty of existence

and perhaps even goodness

could have a home in me


after all just like everyone

I longed to return

to the bay of childhood

to the land of innocence


the bullet I shot

from a small calibre weapon

circled the globe

against the laws of gravitation

and struck me in the back

as if it wanted to say

—that nothing will be forgiven

to anyone


so now I sit alone

on the cut stump of a tree

exactly in the centre

of the forgotten battle


and I

gray spider

weave bitter meditations


about too great a memory

about too small a heart



—Zbigniew Herbert

(Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter)