“The Calling of St. Matthew”

A Poem by Adam Zagajewski, Translated by Clare Cavanagh

December 9, 2021  By Adam Zagajewski
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that priest looks just like Belmondo
–Wislawa  Szymborska, Funeral (II)

—Look at his hand, his palm. Like a pianist’s —But that old guy can’t see a thing
—What next, paying in a church
—Mom, my head aches
—Sharply individuated human figures
—Keep it down please, we can’t focus
—The coins on the table, how much are they worth
—His operation’s just three weeks away
—I’d say silver, definitely silver, but not pure
—Lord, how lovely
—To adorn the Contarelli Chapel
—Which one is Matthew, the young guy or the old?
—We almost got robbed on the subway today
—Two generations of European artists took it as their model —Look, there’s a cross in the window
—The light went out again
—The wall on the left is so black, like the world’s end —Have you got another euro or fifty cents?
—Can’t be the young guy
—They’re closing soon, hurry up
—He saw a man collecting taxes
—How much are these paintings insured for
—Jesus is in shadow but his face is light
—I’m leaving now, I’ll wait outside
—Why don’t they have a guard?
—They live in semi-darkness and suddenly there’s light —It’s going out

Three Caravaggio masterpieces hang in a side chapel of the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome; you put coins in a meter to turn on the lights.

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The FSG Poetry Anthology

Excerpted from The FSG Poetry Anthology, Edited by Jonathan Galassi and Robyn Creswell. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.




Adam Zagajewski
Adam Zagajewski
Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov in 1945. His previous books include Tremor; Canvas; Mysticism for Beginners; Without End; Solidarity, Solitude; Two Cities; Another Beauty; A Defense of Ardor; Eternal Enemies; and Unseen Hand—all published by FSG. He lives in Kraków, Poland.








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