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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.

Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki

Five poems

XII Moon Rises over the Vistula

I’m bedding with a sucker (subtly, they say)
who speaks of a great plague in our suburbs
soon it will be in our yards and at the well
it will spit into the depths of our pollution
our houses will be quieter when we point
at you as if you were crawling in excrement
as if you were crawling in excrement through human settlements
and time after time spat into the depths of our spotlessness
Gemlaburbitsky fears the plague that passes from queer
to queer and threatens in the suburbs: I go nowhere
how lucky that after nightfall I don’t visit the well
whose depths are plumbed by the moon

XXV Dernier Cri

Gemlaburbitsky with whom my body
has been bedding these days (subtly,
they say) smiles at this
exploitation of mine and is
like a doll unmarred by lips even though
he put them around what entered the hand
(and everywhere else) tomorrow he’ll jump
from the depths of tubs that won’t make him thinner
or younger and before I notice
will be mine again only this exploitation
reenters my pants that I’ve had cut
according to the latest fashion


we drink alcohol at the Jewish cemetery
and pee in the bushes
Leszek doesn’t hide what he has in his pants
and that makes an impression on the dead
I notice each of us pees quite a distance
from those present and absent
but Leszek shows off what juts
from his pants and that makes an impression

on the dead I am one of them
so I am one of them since two girls
and three boys do their business
among graves like at home


we wept for eighteen-year-old Bojarska
understanding nothing of her eighteen years
buried too suddenly for us not to seek those guilty
of her death in yellowed photographs
we did not know then that we were standing
on the Lubaczow road to bury
Bojarska in the heat of the afternoon sun
which ran out of somewhere and laid its
hands on the open coffin and played
with itself in Helenka’s sleeping hair
how merrily the sun played in Helenka’s
sleeping hair inviting us to look inside ourselves


It’s not true that friends are ill
with cancer and die at the stroke of noon
their faces won’t change even if we fog
over the blind spots
a friend always has lips through which
his bones call and keep calling
maybe now when we lie together
expecting the arrival of someone
whom we don’t know his lips will part
by a miracle and rouse in me
a hungry stone which even today
I shall throw at your bedroom window


we’d just wept our eyes out for you
Helenka and you Stasio and again
death goes around with us
and gets us drunk in this non-existent tavern

Hryniawska said that “like a serpent
she comes and takes away comes and takes
gets us drunk in this non-existent tavern
the Jew’s who also vanished somewhere”

indeed Hryniawska knows what she’s saying
for months she’s been ill and crying
“death goes around with us
or without us marches from tavern

to tavern to gag on itself in wonder”

Translated by Tadeusz Pióro.

Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki lives in Warsaw, but was born in 1962 in an area bordering on the Ukraine. He studied Polish literature in Lublin, specializing in the literary history of Lwów. Zaplecze [Hinterland], a collection of his meditations on writing from the former eastern parts of Poland, was published by Biuro Literackiein2002.

His publications include:

Nenia i inne wiersze [Nenia and Other Poems] (Lublin: 1990)
Peregrynarz [TravelJournal] (Warszawa: Przedświt, 1992)
Młodzieniec o wzorowych obyczajach [A Young Man of Impeccable Manners] (Warszawa: Przedświt, 1994)
Liber mortuorum (Lublin: Kresy, 1997)
Kamień pełen pokarmu. Księga wierszy z lat 1987–1999 [A Stone Full of Nourishment. A Book of Poems from the Years 1987–1999] (Izabelin: Świat Literacki, 1999)
Przewodnik dla bezdomnych niezależnie od miejsca zamieszkania [Guide for the Homeless Regardless of Place of Residence] (Legnica: Biuro Literackie, 2000)

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