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Reprinted with permission from Altered State — The New Polish Poetry. Edited by Rod Mengham, Tadeusz Pióro and Piotr Szymor. Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2003. Price: £10.95. This selection was chosen by Rod Mengham and John Tranter. Visit the publisher’s website.

Tadeusz Pióro

Poem

Bug Hour

After sunset, the cat goes hunting.
He huddles like a hedgehog in a corner of the room,
on a shelf or somewhere behind my back, near
the flickering lamp, deadly centre
controlling the flights of mosquitoes, moths, flies
and other nervous satellites.

The cat crouches as if he were about to jump
the Bosphorus, but when his paw arcs and catches
something in the air, it’s all legerdemain:
an off-hand gesture of annoyance rather than
labour for just deserts. He inclines his head and
carefully loosens his claws: got it. Shove in quick.

Piece of cake. It’s harder to catch a bug high
above the floor, in midair. When he fixes his eyes
on the joining of ceiling and wall
or climbs on top of the door jamb,
I huddle deeper in my chair,
as if I were a sizeable insect

frozen in the last flash of life. But the phone
rings, it’s Adam Wiedemann complaining
that someone has stolen my dreams. I promise
to send him some new ones as soon as I dream them.
Adam spent his time in Nuremberg profitably.
Bye, see you soon. This time, it’s a moth.

It’s sitting on a picture frame, a reproduction
of Caravaggio’s Deposition of Christ. The cat jumps off
the jamb, leaps a few paces like a pole vaulter,
flies through the air and with both paws
pulls the moth off the black metal frame.
He squats like a rabbit, thrusts the moth in his mouth,

moving jaws, smacking tongue, wagging head.
Love makes us suffer more than pornography.
I remove a bottle from the garbage can,
a few drops of vodka left in the bottom,
pour them on my finger and slide it
along my lips, but can’t kill the taste.

Translated by the author.

Tadeusz Pióro, poet and translator, was born in 1960 and co-edits Dwukropek (with Andrzej Sosnowski). His translations into English include a selection of Tadeusz Borowski’s poems, published in 1990 by the Hit and Run Press in California. He is also adjunct professor of American Literature at the English Department at the University of Warsaw. Together with Rod Mengham and Piotr Szymor, he has edited the present anthology Altered State: The New Polish Poetry (Todmorden: Arc Publications, 2003).

His publications include:

Dom bez kantów [House without Corners] with Andrzej Sosnowski and Kuba Kozioł (Chicago: The Movable Feast Press, 1992)
Okęcie (Waszawa: Przedświt, 1993)
Wiersze okolicznościowe [Circumstantial Poems] (Lublin: Kresy, 1997)
Syntetyczność [Syntheticity] (Legnica: Centrum Sztuki—Tear Dramatyczny, 1998)
Wola i Ochota (Legnica: Biuro Literackie, 2000)

Tadeusz Pioro

Tadeusz Pióro

Tadeusz Pióro (b.1960) has published six books of poems. A selection of his work in English, Infinite Neighbourhood, is out from Equipage. He teaches at the English Department at the University of Warsaw. Together with Andrzej Sosnowski, he has translated Three Plays by John Ashbery, The Princess Zubaroff by Ronald Firbank and is well into A Nest of Ninnies by Ashbery and Schuyler.

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