Remember the very first time you did it
tough wasn’t the word. Turning the key, a sudden
boardful of lights and music swelling behind
our backs and acts of attention, you’d think
the clothes would be off in a minute.
Well, it’s no joke, gunning it close to ninety
nine round and round the hotel garage.
You might have been led by the nose with a knife.
With a razor raising a hair on your
throat, let me have a go, I’m good at feeling
my way in the dark. What a shambles:
our truth was so barely true
we hunted a slightly variant truth
in a toy—in its cogs and springs, so easy
to undo, but murder to stick together again.
And life now is more like when you leave
the shelter after a night raid.
Dust has settled, you wipe red eyes
and the driver’s smile in his view-finding mirror
is trained upon us like a valediction.
It’s your neck and mine. The wheel is whirring
like a hand-held propeller, freezing the image
in a videotape of that action movie
they never took us to watch in school.
Remember the faces arranged into smiles,
hair brushed by the wind?
In the blink of an eye, pain
turns it to jelly, and you chew your lips,
mouths are twisted by moans, smiles are
fizzing like sparklers.
The oceans are explained under separate cover.
On the Hoof
The question about this fact-free life brimming
with great notions is, can you live up to it?
At dusk the megaphones get all confidential
in the words of mountains the sun never scales.
In the rising murmur you listen for the
tinny undertones of carnival: saltimbanques
get under your skin, cymbals and triangles
yell like a riot of doomed may-flies.
The heart does an about turn and reason breaks into slivers
when the world grows dim in your eyes, which retreat
bewildered, nestling beneath the lids or sheltering
under the brows, at the absolute end of their tether.
Will I ever stop plunging headlong into these realms?
Perhaps when you drop down a peg and start to look
threadbare, when you check out the damaged landscape with
peripheral vision, the specks of dust at the side of the road.
You will find your focus and from that point on nature is
not a fixture. So you go for a walk, your pockets
stuffed with banknotes and handkerchiefs doused with perfume
merely as a precaution. You enter the canyon of the evening
in the shape of an alley that rears overhead, and the dark air
muddies with phantoms whose voices rattle away
like a glee club of frogs, or a male voice choir of gnats.
Founding a Colony
Pill boxes, patrols, protocols: this is what made
the locals come running, so nothing should be disturbed.
Softly, softly, we thought. That graveyard needs moving
further south: chop it up
among urban allotments, carve out
wide boulevards and tunnels, erect
viaducts, excavate canals,
launch speedboats, ferries, hovercrafts and junk
the heritable past; let the map heave
with bulldozer silhouettes, he said
(lighting a corner of the map)
for this shall be our theatre of war. And then what?
Unlock the fog. At twilight
only a boy’s quick laugh in a blind back alley
shall echo that time shift of desire
all lost in space beyond their dreams.
Translated by Rod Mengham.
Andrzej Sosnowski, poet and translator, was born in 1959 and works as an editor for Literatura na Świecie. His translations include selected Cantos by Ezra Pound, selected poems by John Ashbery, Ronald Firbank’s The Flower Beneath the Foot and Jane Bowles’s Two Serious Ladies.
His publications include:
Życie na Korei [Life about Korea] (Warszawa: Przedświt, 1992)
Nouvelles Impressions d’Amerique (Warszawa: Przedświt, 1994)
Sezon na Helu [A Season in Hell] (Lublin: Kresy, 1994)
Stancje [Lodgings] (Lublin: Kresy, 1997)
Konwój. Opera [A Convoy. An Opera] (Wrocław: Pomona, 1999)
Zoom (Kraków: Studium, 2000)
Taxi (Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2003)
Gdzie koniec tęczy nie dotyka ziemi [Where the End of the Rainbow Does Not Touch the Ground] (Wroclaw: Biuro Literackie, 2005)