Reading: Impossible Friendships by Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945) is another famous Polish poet. Browsing his poetry, I found this endearing list of impossible friendships, and I quote:

Impossible friendships
For example, with someone who no longer is,
who exists only in yellowed letters.

Or long walks beside a stream,
whose depths hold hidden

porcelain cups—and the talks about philosophy
with a timid student or the postman.

A passerby with proud eyes
whom you’ll never know.

Friendship with this world, ever more perfect
(if not for the salty smell of blood).

The old man sipping coffee
in St.-Lazare, who reminds you of someone.

Faces flashing by
in local trains—

the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps
for a splendid ball, or a beheading.

And friendship with yourself
—since after all you don’t know who you are.

The first one, friendship with the dead, is obvious, though I have felt warm friendly feelings to some authors who died a century ago while flipping through their yellow pages, especially if they knew how to write. In English one might think of a Thoreau, Twain or Emerson.

How is a long walk beside a deep stream an impossible friendship, I don’t quite get, but I have had these philosophy conversations, how often was I the timid student listening to some postman who explained the universe and everything to me.

Sometimes, I see people passing by thinking I would love to strike up a conversation, but don’t have the time or temerity to go and tap them on a shoulder.

Okay, some sentimental stuff about the man in the Paris train station and how the world is almost perfect except it is not because of the blood. And all of a sudden travelers are perhaps headed for a beheading. What? Dafuck, in Internet parlance. Just silly word play or was Adam looking for a strong metaphor to express how other people’s intentions are difficult to guess and can be very different than what we assume?

Finally, you can’t be your own friend. But maybe that’s alright after all these tender miniatures of impossible friendships.

Reading: Impossible Friendships by Adam Zagajewski was originally published on Meandering home


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Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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