Saturday, September 4, 2010


Recently, Polish-American poet Christina Pacosz found a box of copies of her highly acclaimed book This is Not a Place to Sing, a collection of poems about her visit to Poland. She wants to share these books with others and is offering to send them to interested readers for the price of postage: $2 for a copy, $3 for 2 copies.

The books can be purchased by contacting

Christina Pacosz
4238 Charlotte
Kansas City, MO 64110

When it was originally published in 1987, Choice, the official publication of the American Library Association, published a review that said the following:

"The Wind at the Wedding," the first poem in this unusual, moving collection, is intensely powerful and original. Written as a prose poem, it describes a wedding in Poland in which 'The wind lifts the hem of the birde's dress,' revealing her ankles. The scene is sharp and poignant as the poet weaves it, strand by strand, into Poland's terrible history. Pacosz states, 'In this country there is too much to remember,' and with each poem she adds to the picture of the devastation ... of the past that can never be forgoten, and a present in which life is difficult. "Matka Boska, Matka Polska" tells of the women who "are mothers with capable hands and patient feet" and of "an entire country criss-crossed with lines where women wait...." Other practically strong poems are "Auschwitz: Oswiecim" and "On the Propensity of the Human Species to Repeat Error." The poet employs daring technique and style; she does not hesitate to take risks. Highly recommended.

Here are the three poems from Christina's book mentioned in the above review:

The Wind at the Wedding

The wind lifts the hem of the bride's dress. She is wearing white shoes. Her feet look frail surrounded by the hard stones of the street, the raised hoop of her skirt. The bride is a bell for a moment, waiting to be rung.

Unlike the wind, who is a traveler, the bride is stationary and may never leave Lublin. Possibly she will visit the Black Sea on a holiday with her husband, but she will not be wearing her white dress. She will never be a bell again, all the notes wrung out of her, whether she remains in a flat in Lublin, or suns herself on the sand.

The wind is an old wind, full of understanding, but, like the bride's feet, it has no strength against the stones of the street. No strength to lift the people's hearts, even for a moment. The wind has only enough strength to lift the white hem of the dress of the bride who is wearing white shoes with high heels to match her high hopes.

The groom has white gloves on his hands. The stones at his feet are gray. The stones are gray and as old as the wind, maybe older.

In Krakow there are fossils embedded in the paving stones around St. Mary's Church. There, the brides and grooms step on ancient animals without thinking. There, when the trumpeter plays his notes from the steeple, he imagines he is flinging his song to the sky, which is like the sea, blue and roiled, but by swallows, not fish. What does it matter: fist, fowl, human flesh? We all share the same fate.

The bride and groom are waiting for the bells to ring, for permission to become one flesh. The wind lifts her dress and the bride does not blush when the groom stares at her feet. Why should she?

The wind blowing its way through the old city is a kind wind. Wise and kind and old like a grandfather or grandmother. The bride and groom may be thinking that one day this day will lead them to a garden and grandchildren climbing on their laps in the sun. Peace.

The bride and groom are young. They have never known war, but the wind cannot forget how it blows over the eyelids of the dead in all directions. Today the wind wants to play a simple joke and lift a bride's dress, showing her shoes, her ankles to the world.

The wind harbors no illusions. To lift a dress is not to lift a heart, except maybe his, the groom's, who is staring at the bride's ankles, thinking how they will be his soon. He wants to kiss the blue vein under the strap of her shoe. He wants to begin there.

The wind knows the hearts of the people are hungry, but for what? Meat lines, milk lines, bread lines, lines for vodka. Lines on the palms of his hands, the map of his life lost to a grenade in the Warsaw Uprising.

What is the soldier doing here? Isn't this a wedding, not a war?

In this country there is too much to remember. Better to watch the wind lift the hem of the bride's white dress like a cloud moving across the gray stones into the church.

On the Propensity of the Human Species to Repeat Error

And if they kill others for being who they are
or where they are Is this a law of history
or simply, what must change?
Your Native Land, Your Life Adrienne Rich

The world is round
This should tell us
something, this should
have been our first clue.

what goes around
comes around

Scientists are studying
a rent in the roof of sky
over the South Pole
right now, but poets
need not adhere
to the caution
of the scientific method.

The message is simple:

what goes around
comes around

The battery acid of
Plato's Republic
has finally reached
the ozone layer,
a membrane, protective
like skin or an amniotic sac,
permeable and destructible.

what we take
for granted
will get us
in the end

The Sioux woman's breast
severed from her body
dried into a pouch
for tobacco,
what book was that?

Or a chosen people's skin
stretched across the heavens,
shade for us to more easily
read the harsh lesson
of history.

Message from the Past to the Present

A looming mound
of empty zyklon B canisters
behind glass: to open death
like canned peaches

Behind the tins:
corporate profit.

Are there no new tales
we can tell each other?

Artifacts of the age,
the waning twentieth century
on parade, naked
and exhausted.

Each time capusule
should include
one of these.

Such eloquent

Auschwitz: Oswiecim

Los Nas Dla Was Prestroga
Let Our Loss Be Your Warning
Majdanek Monument

We are leaving
flowers like messages
in this awful place:

what else to do
except fall down
with weeping
into a grieving
that will never
be done.

And how to live
int the world then?

So it is calendula
for memory, here
with the children's
clothing they never

And here before
hundreds of neatly
lettered suticases
with addresses from
every country in Europe
never claimed
by their owners
we leave
our innocence
in the form
of a single
white daisy.

We should haul
larkspur by
the truckload
and fill every
exhibit room
from floor to ceiling
with levity
with light.

We must airdrop
hyacinth purple
sorrow raining down
until this place
of the awful name
is smothered in

We should be weaving
miles of rosemary garlands
for remembrance
and planting olive
for peace.

The lilac leaves
are waving, try
to imagine
them blooming.

The poplar trees
are voices
in the wind:

We did not
that our bodies
be used
as weapons.

Remember the ash
how it sifts down
to the desks
where the bureaucrats
are stamping papers.


The books may be purchased by contacting

Christina Pacosz
4238 Charlotte
Kansas City, MO 64110

“The Wind at the Wedding” appears in St. Andrews Review, Issue No. 37, Laurinburg, North Carolina, 1989.

“On the Propensity of the Human Species to Repeat Error,” “A Message from the Past for the Present,” appeared in Beyond Lament, Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust, edited by Marguerite M. Striar, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois 1998.

“Auschwitz: Oswiecim,” Blood to Remember, American Poets on the Holocaust, revised, second edition, edited by Charles Ades Fishman, Time Being Books, St. Louis Missouri, 2007.


Laurel Johnson said...

Pacosz has been a favorite poet of mine since reading This Is Not A Place to Sing. What a GIFT to the world that she is offering this beautiful book for the cost of postage!! It holds a permanent position on my book shelf of favorites.
With compassion and skill, Pacosz transformed terrible situations into beauty and light. Auschwitz Oswiecim is my favorite.

Maja Trochimczyk said...

The "rent in the sky" is growing, 20 years later we are further advanced in destroying our Earth and the corporate greed has reached new levels, destroying the safety and futures of so many. The prophetic voice of poetry is not heard. Yet the poet-prophet stands witness to her time.