“And yet there is always less of it” (Adam Zagajewski)

candied peel

This morning I was going to write about panforte. The other day I candied orange and lemon peel for it, and I have figs, hazelnuts, and spices to mix with honey and unsalted butter, a little dark cocoa so that the panforte is nero. I was going to write about last year’s panforte, packaged and ribboned and tucked into Christmas parcels, and how we ate the last one in January, with sherry in the beautiful Waterford glasses passed on to us by Rosemary and Glen. I was going to write about the traditional Christmas treats as palimpsests, part of the layers we preserve, remember, forget (did my mother make light or dark fruitcake? I don’t recall. But for years I made delicious white chocolate cake dense with golden dried fruit…), prepare for early, or late, and how we honour the past by saving orange peels, drying apples (and even smoking them, as I did the fall I returned from Ukraine, to replicate the taste of uzvar), hoarding nuts and chocolate, and silver dragées for the trifle. (In my fridge, there are two pink marzipan pigs, one to send to Gatineau and one to remain here.) I was going to write about panforte.


But then I found myself re-reading a poem I read yesterday. I’d opened the New Yorker that I’d just taken from our mailbox at the Hallowell corner and there was this:

The Old Painter On A Walk

In his pockets treats for local dogs
He sees almost nothing now
He almost doesn’t notice trees suburban villas
He knows every stone here
I painted it all tried to paint my thoughts
And caught so little
The world still grows it grows relentlessly
And yet there is always less of it
            –Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021), trans. Clare Cavanagh

It made me quiet. It made me cry. A poem by a poet I’ve loved for years, a poem reminding me of my own failing eyesight, the world I have cherished and am watching diminished by war, hunger, drought, climate change, the incivility of our social and political systems, and I cried then, cried again as I read it this morning, just now, the magazine open on my desk where I came to make notes about panforte. And yet there is always less of it

2 thoughts on ““And yet there is always less of it” (Adam Zagajewski)”

  1. Oh Theresa! Melancholy today too. Problems with both eyes now and nothing more can be done. Ironic, with
    My thousands of books. But congratulations on Forrest—how wonderful!

    1. I was thinking about eyesight as I tried to thread a needle without my reading glasses (which I never needed until I tore my retinas). Forrest’s exhibit at CMH is so true to the 9 year old boy who announced he was going to be an archivist when he grew up! What you can’t see in the YouTube is his lapel pin — somehow he acquired a promotional pin from a Czech manufacturer of microfiche readers…

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