My Aunts by Adam Zagajewski
Woke up and smelled lavender. Is that you, Lolo? I suddenly remembered this poem, and oh, my heart. How I always find parts of my life tucked in poems, I’ll never know.
Translated by Clare Cavanagh
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.
This is from Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.