Thursday, August 14, 2008
POEMS AND PHOTOS OF POLAND
Recently, poems by Phil Boiarski, Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska, Elisabeth Murawski, and Christina Pacosz have appeared in an issue of the photography journal Private devoted to Poland and the vision of Polish photographers. The poems and the photos are stark, whimsical, touching, shocking, and inspiring.
A preview of the journal is available online.
Here are some of the poems:
How We Learned About the War
There were the pictures from Life,
the spider in the brain of Harry Truman
saving the boys time by dropping the bomb.
There were the silent films of opened
boxcars in Poland, the sticks and stones
with holes for eyes that went on living.
Parts of V-mail letters arrived, sometimes
after the telegrams lame with regret.
In the windows hung miniature flags,
their stars assigned a simple code
of blue, silver or gold. Gold
was for the unlucky. Only months,
years later would diaries come to light
so that we might hear the boots
that kept the Jews awake, see shadows
burned into a wall. Only then
would we see how the world always knows
what it is doing--girding for war
and whistling, while Lorca died and Picasso
on fire created the hips of Guernica.
Sometimes we forget the noose and its length--
how we are joined. We hang our souls
in windows prophets die for, playing
our parts at both ends, holding
our spotted coats in our hands.
(first published in The Literary Review, USA)
Five thousand decades have passed
since the dragon with a taste for virgins
was slain by Prince Krak. The jewels
of royalty and the chambers of the rich
rise above the cave where the bones
mounded before the open wound
in the earth. The stench of rotting
flesh and the fiery belches of
the beast, led the brave knight
deep within the bowels of
the hill, to slay the evil thing.
And while the mass is said
and the choir sings, the beast
awaits within. Where once
again it will awaken.
At Morskie Oko Lake, Zakopane
It is a gray country
even when the sky is blue
and today it is raining.
Mist gathers itself
a quiet fist
clutching the mountains.
Nuns in gray habits
walk over gray rocks
circling the lake.
If this is too much gray
look at the trees, green
bodies, beds of moss
waiting, the small blue
eyes of niezapominakji*
The nuns have disappeared
and only the shore of the lake
the eye of the sea
is visible, a narrow
border of aquamarine
filled with trout flicking
tails in cold water
swimming in the only
sky there is.
( Christina's book, This Is Not a Place to Sing, West End, 1987)
A Patriotic Song (1981)
Maybe it was a dream,
maybe it didn’t exist,
though everyone remembers
how this country
lived and suffered and loved.
It was sung in the margins of letters,
in hundreds of poems.
From the very beginning
it was branded with ash.
a word wilted
by familial warmth:
mother and father
waiting at the table
to break the Christmas wafer
with the son who never returned
from the war,
the daughter who loves carousing,
and beloved cousin who cleans houses
in a foreign land.
The heirloom rosebush,
packed carefully in straw,
rots from excessive warmth,
though with each passing year,
the winters here grow longer.
(translated in English by Karen Kovacik)