My Aunts

Always caught up in what they called 
the practical side of life 
(theory was for Plato), 
up to their elbows in furniture, in bedding, 
in cupboards and kitchen gardens,
they never neglected the lavender sachets 
that turned a linen closet to a meadow.

The practical side of life, 
like the Moon's unlighted face, 
didn't lack for mysteries; 
when Christmastime drew near, 
life became pure praxis 
and resided temporarily in hallways, 
took refuge in suitcases and satchels.

And when somebody died--it happened 
even in our family, alas--
my aunts, preoccupied
with death's practical side, 
forgot at last about the lavender,
whose frantic scent bloomed selflessly 
beneath a heavy snow of sheets.
Don't just do something, sit there.
And so I have, so I have,
                    the seasons curling around me like smoke,
Gone to the end of the earth and back without sound. 

Excerpted from Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski. Translated by Clare Cavanaugh, Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C. K. Williams. This poem is translated by Clare Cavanagh. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. All rights reserved.