The New Polish Poetry feature
Return to the Contents list
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.
A Song For Europe
Is that a rainbow? No-one has seen one for forty 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.
And the princess will change into a toad, and the prince
will flee to the north in terror. Just expectorate
and come over here. That raised eyebrow, that cunning whistle—
are they enough to fill a sandbag
in the gliding gondola of our stroll
through the green embers of the day, through the town
so unwittingly changed into fable, that dusk
still rallies for a while with tennis balls
and creaking swings in the playgrounds
of night? Like two shadows
cast by the picture at the end of the book, and whistling
over the gap between whereto and nowhere,
we’re holding hands. The amusing dolphins
spouting water and ganging up on the figure of
that goddess newly created from waves
in the light shining from an immense building—
aren’t they just like the applause that greets
an iridescent star? But you say hush,
you want to look. You incredible nutters!
You who drag yourself away from the crowd round the fountain,
plunge naked into its basin
and proceed to a knee trembler with the dripping statue,
coming all over its stone rump! Is that the signature
of ecstasy? Or graffiti in the eyes
of a mournful crowd who must believe
that certain acts should only be signed in blood?
As I sign now.
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)
it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be
stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose
This material is copyright © Andrzej Sosnowski and the translator/s and Jacket magazine 2006
The Internet address of this page is