Aug 222023

The best Polish poem of recent years.
Author unknown.
But certainly not poet A,
poet B, poet S.

The text is densely written
from right to left
and left to right
and from top to bottom
and bottom to top
and crosswise
and in tiny veinlets
up to the beautifully serrated edges.

The customs agent didn’t know the suspect code.
He just checked for letters,
seized books,
tossed photos,
shredded diplomas.

The best Polish poem of recent years ended up abroad.

And it can now be read against the light
in Vienna
in Toronto
in Haifa
in Amsterdam.

As with all true poetry –
it’s difficult to translate
into the leaflet of a different birch
from a different cemetery.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Aug 222023

for JP

Packing up, we are out of sorts,
And speak as two who’ve never loved.
The chores come due like book reports;
Kids shrug and shirk. At last you’ve shoved

Into the trunk the broken bike
(Which has to be repaired in town)
You shouldered on a mountain hike
Because the gears jammed halfway down

And you’re ill-slept – the blessed cat
That can’t tell time, except for dawn,
Pawed you awake. The thermostat
That starts your runny nose is on;

But only yesterday you stood
On a ladder in the orange tree
And picked – as many as you could
Globes from our golden orrery.

You lift them, and just now, by chance
The bulging sack seems to explode,
And in a mad, atomic dance
They jump in bright arcs down the road.

Your anger stutters into curse;
But for the bike, you’d slam the trunk.
I know to laugh would make it worse.
(Whole marriages that way are sunk.)

Out of our hands, our labours spill,
Irretrievable and sweet,
Faster and farther down the hill.
The day’s catastrophe complete,

Yet aren’t we lightened by an ounce
As our misgivings veer amiss?
My heart leaps as the oranges bounce
Ungovernable as happiness.

Aug 032023

Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn –

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is – ‘Leave the heart that now I bear.
And give me liberty.’

Yes, as my swift days near their goal,
’Tis all that I implore –
Through life and death, a chainless soul,
With courage to endure!

Aug 012023

So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.

Jul 132021

Rivers level granite mountains,
Rains wash the figures from the sundial,
The plowshare wears thin in the furrow;
And on the fingers of the mighty,
The gold of authority is bright
With the glitter of attrition.

trans. by Kenneth Rexroth