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Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |    

Andrzej Sosnowski

Two poems

translated by Rod Mengham

Trope for Trope

Halfway there and the flames engulfed us
the prompter will be on cue in a minute.
We flowed, no we didn’t, we fled and now
upright now head down you go like water through a mill-gate
out of breath and out of your depth that should give them
something to dream of. As plain as the words in a song

‘just like a woman’. But this
high-gloss, semi-technicolour
shoestring of days, pages torn from a diary
glowing like eclectic postmarks
in the album — was it for this, dear basilisk, we lit our powder train?
The explosives are in our possession

I fear, this is it quite frankly.
A match flares up. There’s a cackle of hyenas and the light
blowing up in our faces. Wham!  The audience
curls up into a ball, while the hero
drives away into the weird glare
glancing back over his shoulder at the clinker of empire.

The aureole sheens in the eyes of his bride to be.

Meanwhile, we are quite patently elsewhere, fluorescent fish
in a derelict aquarium. When did you start hearing things
like the refrain underlying that famous lullaby
or did you work out in advance that background noises
won’t get a look in? Even when sleeping you leave a trail
and only a part of it can be read
when it doesn’t look a bit like what it isn’t, which is blood.

A Song for Europe

Is that a rainbow? No one has seen one for 40 years
it’s the end of the world or something of that kidney.
Do not run to the shelter. When love is
quite literally an occult power divvying up life
into equal parts bliss and loss — like the siren
slanting through memory in the air-raid of flash-backs —
this is Germany close to the French border.
The dream enlarges of the battle of continents.
The factories spew by night, there are discords and afterglows
and the style of this tale is impossible to pin down
so the poem is shoved this way and that before ending up
in the hands of an unknown recipient.

It was never thus. No, it was ever thus.
Will you be the one? Such a strange encounter — with an emerald
round your neck and a shadow on your eyeshadow — is that a smile
or a veil of mourning for the words that have gone missing?
Is the emerald so that you won’t
distract yourself? So the poem can tail you
like a shadow and screen your eyes, I mean this
poem — a dark spot on the truth fetched up from the depths
of a tear, a shiver of light, vitreous full stop
that terminates all this chat about broken mirrors?

Be her, be the one left over, in the quiet of the ‘all clear’.
Perhaps we were callous to be drawn so easily into
the black-out life with never a hint
when you took the ground from under my feet
while the sky took an overdose of snow? Love
isn’t the word, but neither is any other. The poem knows this
and declares it, as if it’s declaring the Blitz.

Andrzej Sosnowski was born in Warsaw in 1959. He has published seven collections of poetry, including a Selected Poems, as well as numerous translations of poetry and prose by various authors, including John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, John Cage, Ronald Firbank, Henry Green, Harry Mathews and Ezra Pound. To his own great surprise he has received several prestigious Polish literary awards. He has also been an editor and translator for the magazine Literatura na Swiecie since 1994, producing special issues on Cage, Firbank, de Man, Mathews and Pound. He lives in Warsaw, and occasionally teaches contemporary American poetry at Warsaw University.

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