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Poems by Tadeusz Ró?ewicz and Ewa Lipska: translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Two poems by Tadeusz Różewicz (1921-2014)


I was sitting in an armchair
I put away a book
suddenly I heard
the beating of my heart
it was so unexpected
as if a stranger had entered me
and was pounding with clenched fist
some unknown creature
locked up inside me
there was something unpleasant about it
pounding there without any connection
to me
to my abstract thoughts


I don’t believe
I don’t believe from the moment I rise
till the moment I fall asleep

I don’t believe from one shore
of my life to the other
I don’t believe
as openly
as deeply
as my mother did believe

I don’t believe
eating bread
drinking water
making love

I don’t believe
inside his shrines

I don’t believe on a city street
in a field in rain
in the open air
in the gold of annunciation

I read his parables
simple as a shock of wheat
and I think of a god
who did not laugh

I think of a small
god bleeding
in the white
shrouds of childhood

about a thorn which tears
our eyes lips
and at the hour of our death

Three Poems by Ewa Lipska

Study Death

Study death. Learn it by heart.
Following to the rules of spelling
dead words.

Spell it together
like commonwealth or toadflax.

Do not split it
among the dead.

You are the chosen of the gods
Study death early.

Love of country
can be mortal too.

Study death
in love.

Study death not just
to kill time.

Time can be suicidal
and hang from a tree for hours.

Quiz yourself.

A real live quiz.

Plum crumb cake

I pluck from your face
a crumb of plum crumb cake.
A tiny press of tenderness.

Away from all ideas
I set it on the fine china of the page.
Let it be recorded forever.

It’s hard to tell when
a draft has blown everything away.
Someone opened a window. Someone opened a door.

Years later
I still walk among the pastry shops.
It’s a shame I only think you up.
Even the night doesn’t realize…
when we are together.


In the palm of my hand I hold this landscape
I cover by tram. Line number one.
I feel the iron of wheels. Submissive strips of rail.
Like an educational toy.

A girl gives up her seat for me.
As we round the bend language overturns.
Syllables fall from a mouth.
A crude screech.

“Enjoy it while it lasts, child,
enjoy this moment. This tram. This further.”

But not the Furthest. This much I know.
Your gray hair is already waiting
at the end of the line.
I am still seated
as your white cane gets off
supporting my prophecy.

“I am talking to you, child”

The girl laughs. What a joke,
the passengers say: life love death.

And when the tram reaches the stop
its brakes are still laughing.