or a stand of grain more potent than the beauty
that abides in a broken staff that a blond-haired boy
is leaning over, or in straw that pokes out of a thatched roof?
A mountain stream, grown sluggish from the sun, spilling
into tall rubber boots--can it be superior to the pleat of a rusty skirt
that flashes for a moment between park benches?
Perhaps it is not beauty that compels our glances
with which we draw in slippery rocks and swift bicycles,
the arches of bridges, and children's collarbones so delicate to
Perhaps it is not beauty that prompts desire, consent
or the will to overstep boundaries, but rather the secret of being,
being itself, in effect; the fact that a clock's ticking
next to the sublimity of a common currant, the vapor from a teapot,
and a die tossed high in the air all evoke in us the fear
of inferiority? I could answer, though without being certain
that I'm not in error, that each tiny hair, each gust
of the universe is the conjunction of loss and expense,
of the assent to an individual, unchosen life. Beauty is born
and dies in a similar harmony, in the same infinite
din of seasons and days, subjected to the pressure of the dark,
of blindness, and of a tongue torn out, in constant flight
from the travesty of circles, squares,
and shrill lines that circumscribe with their radii
our entire globe flung into the bitter spume of the cosmos.
* Born in Gliwice in 1946, Julian Kornhauser is a central figure of the "New Wave" generation. In addition to writing poetry, novels, and literary criticism, he is also an accomplished translator of Serbo-Croatian literature. His most recent collection of poetry is Kamyk i cien (Pebble and shadow, 1996).