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Adam Zdrodowski

Four poems

Translated by the author

Sestine Mon Amour

For all the treasures of Samarcand,
for the voice of Juliette Greco
singing Si tu t’imagines, for all the snow
of this wicked world
invading the mouth and melting under the tongue,
and for today’s light,

a somehow more luminous light
that shines over Bogalusa —
you can’t talk about it in any tongue,
it won’t be enough to look at Queneau’s
facial exercises. A part of the world
will get lost, disappear or hide under snow.

All night long we had snow
and in the morning the light
changed in this misty part of the world.
But only for a moment. London
Bridge is falling down, Faithfull and Waits
sing, and nobody knows what governs their tongue

and how one can have you under the tongue
like a beneficial pill, look at the snow
through the eyes of Bashō,
keep you like light
under a closed eyelid, get well in Guadalajara
and have you within reach like a good bit of the world,

to send in the four directions of the world
these names that make the tongue
work miracles: Sevilla,
Oslo and Tenochtitlán where snow
is falling. I look at the map against the light
(it is a map by Nicolas Desliens)

and I feel like James Cook and Elizabeth Bishop
in one. I want to answer to the world’s
call, see what the light
can be like elsewhere and how my tongue
will welcome a different, foreign snow.
I want to drink tea in Tula, find Carcavelos

and Pernambuco, be like Cabral and Vespucci. I turn off the light,
the snow. I want to do something with the shape of the world
and with the tongue: Mener une vie tout à fait différente, in Tulsa or Pamplona.


Like a Tourist in a Milk Bar

I thought it was you but it was me again —
Reflected in a wet casement. My reflection
Has appeared on so many surfaces of mirrors and water
And in so many eyes that it will do.
Enough, no more, enough. So
Have a good time, I say, and follow you
With my drowsy eyes, and you ask
If the crickets are playing well this summer
And you want to count crickets or just
Ask how many crickets we have on local
Meadows? — so you won’t have to count.
On nothing? Yes. No. Or yet another way since
The heart plays the same tune as the nerves, doesn’t it?

Like from a catalogue — a velvety body
On soft velours but a numb
Hand is stuck under the heavy head and there must be some
Dreams and it’s all because of them, because of them:
As if my finger was on the map, my tongue
On your teeth, my teeth on
My teeth, my forehead on the
Coarse wall. On the staircase I finally catch
My breath, gather some thoughts. The rest
Is yours, even this beginning
Which must be a good one after all,
If it is at all a
Beginning. Je m’en vais, cher lecteur.


Poem Written During Office Hours

The poem I’d wish to write
could even be a chat,
if you would care to chat
and it could describe a city
landscape (parks, asphalts,
public works & repairs)
or say something about colours
& about wild & sad days
in Paris, in hospital, about life
in a quiet haven. You can feel it
in your loins, on the tongue and on
your hairs’ tips. It may be
a poem about a man holding a toothpick
in his mouth, a child reading
about the adventures of Tom or little
Nicolas and his friends, a girl
rushing through suburban meadows
in a rickety van packed with
books. It can be like this or completely
different. The poem I wished to write.


Telling Fortunes

City. Dark, allegoric,
a hard parable (you see
the five-dollar bill but not
the line). Those nights
in a mercer’s shop
when I hid behind
the wavering of identities
as if behind a chiffon curtain.
O crêpes de Chine, o batistes,
bathyscaphs, bateaux, bâtiments,
snowy sessions on sleighs,
with my head bare, of course,
those falls from the stairs
leaving you speechless and silent
evenings of fortune-telling when
the knowledge wouldn’t
harden into wax that
would tell how, at what
pace and under what sun.

Translated by the author

Adam Zdrodowski

Adam Zdrodowski

Adam Zdrodowski, born in 1979, poet and translator, is preparing his PhD on Elizabeth Bishop. His translations include Lifting Belly by Gertrude Stein, prose pieces by William S. Burroughs and poems by Mark Ford. His poems have appeared in: Odra, Dwukropek and Dziennik portowy. His first collection of poems is entitled Przygody, etc. [Adventures, etc.] and has been published in Wrocław (2005). He lives in Warsaw.

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