Thursday, July 30, 2015

Proof by Karina Borowicz

All poets are teachers, and the best poets are the ones who have learned to teach in such a way that we learn from them with joy and ease and certainty.

Karina Borowicz is this kind of teacher.

Reading her poems I feel that I am learning about the world, both the little things and the big things, in such a way that I will be transformed by her lessons and that I will carry these lessons to others, and they will feel the joy I felt.  

Here are a couple of her poems, so that you'll be able to see what I mean.  


Hammer and hacksaw, vise and screwdriver have the hard gaze
and slow heartbeat of reptiles.  I am visiting the hardware store

with my father.  In a wooden drawer stained by dirty fingers
a sea of nails rolls back and forth.  The bare light bulb

burning in the middle of the ceiling cuts deep shadows
in the men's faces, silent men that smell of sawdust and kerosene,

boiled cabbage and cigarettes.  When I furtively pick up a crested little tool
its claws bite my palm.  The neighborhood's only color TV glows neon

in the dark room behind the register.  Cowboys are fighting at the bar,
chairs are crashing, the soundtrack builds ominously.

School for the Blind 
Photo Exhibit at the Central House of Artists, Moscow

A boy, his scalp covered
with white stubble, his face up close,
all sharp bone, all light
and shadow.  In the hollows 
of his eyes, darkness runs
too deep to give anything back.

Is it right to gaze so freely
at the blind?  My shame
and my tenderness are beating 
together.  I look away,
then step closer.

Back in the street I'm greedy
for faces.  Only these carry with them
a different ligh, not time-stopped.
These mouths move, these eyes
gaze back, these faces
flicker in the human breeze
as we stream over the sidewalk.
The cobalt beginnings of hair barely visible
on a man's shaven chin.  An old woman
whose eyebrows have worn down
to puckered skin.  Ears, some red,
some folded, or wing-like.  Beneath this angry
winter sky, there's nothing as beautiful
as our bare, imperfect faces.

Yet the photograph stays with me
like the tightened, white line
of a scar.  A negative after-image
that glows with otherworldly perfection.  

Karina Borowicz's book Proof is available at Amazon.  


Karina Borowicz was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She earned a BA in history and Russian from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Borowicz spent five years teaching English in Russia and Lithuania, and has translated poetry from Russian and French. Her first collection of poetry, The Bees Are Waiting (2012), won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry, the First Horizon Award, and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second book, Proof (2014), won the Codhill Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Nightboat Press Poetry Prize. Borowicz lives with her family in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.