No. 4 & 5


Jan Twardowski  

Translated from the Polish by Ryszard J. Reisner  


*   *   *

They all crave for bread to beget bread,
paralytic complete in Lourdes is bathing,
even the bishop to heaven wants to head,
thus without sin, in comfort, so stately.

But I continue to fall head down first,
like a jam filled jar I burst on the stairs.

to Jesus left in agony by church organs

Dear Christ surely it's no joy when church organs leave You in agony
You have your fill of Bach's music -
maybe You would like to hear
how the Hebrew letter on black legs creaks in the Bible 
how confessors murmur straight into the ear of conscience
a growing halo hurts above a saint 
escaping glances shed tears -
shoes after the rain drip onto the tiled floor 
the old dear yawns over a litany
a goldfinch of snow hops from tram to tram stop
over a candle in a candlestick shrieks
one burning match

Even in a violin we don't hear the strings only the wood


Love is similar only to love
truth similar only to truth
happiness similar to happiness
death similar to death
heart similar to heart
to a boy with a smile from ear to ear
similar to the one I was once 

stop finally making fools of yourselves
after all even a God similar to God does not exist 

certain uncertainty

Thank You for 
not having spoken the unspoken
not having finished the unfinished
not having proved the unproved

thank You for
being certain of the uncertain
believing in the possible impossible
not knowing in religion class what comes next
when too much of a tear stuck in your throat like a simple pip
for being the You that You are
without a word
You told me so much about God

From Andersen’s Return  (powrót Andersena, 1937)

Andersen’s return

on cushions of stars in a far away place
and night curtain looped in darkness laced
dear Andersen 

in the hush people again gathered breaking tall branches of dreams
in the green waterfall of trees the house drenched and drenched ever deeper
on sailing ships Denmark swayed in the Baltic filled with skyblue linen beams
sad fairy tales and wheat ears unplaited
and in their eyes the wasted and still wanted –
window open 

calm – bells welcomed the moon inside
ropes raining on verger who knelt in respect
bittern rustling at night black pool
hands cool
a shiver on the deck

the port asleep along the lanterns brimmed
with waves that on oars were breaking
bridge archways silver trembled
the saddest people out of dreams
the saddest people out of dreams
casting shadows carrying long locks of the dead 
slapping oilskins marked them from afar
late setting sun lit masts aflame
like torches burning over those asleep
on the soaring gothic of waves
not sailing ships
not sailing ships
Chinese lanterns
always the Baltic runs to the north
its sailing ships lighting up waters deeper
above the town the stars a golden field of rye
birds of  bells break out in towers nests of sleep -
a room 
a table
night in windows now so low

lamps going out at night a knot shining
lifted eyelids of heavy leaves
at such a time Andersen was arriving
so peaceful in the remotest of dreams

all you with a smile
all you with a tear
on sailing ships Denmark swaying

*    *    *  

boats full of cold gardens berthed again when Autumn now came
from deepest stretches of far away water
painfully into view came the distant border

so much longing
so much heart
and roads a many on wheel-spokes counted

a bird wings flapping night in black
in apples yellow not yet ripened
longing something – they know they lack
of things too many that are too few

a mere poem -  so the moon deep 
shone and carried the whisper of lament -
at such an hour fell children asleep
hugging their Andersens to pillows sent.

well and good -  so now set we sail
into slowly rising high scent of wheat
in white shells of dreams we prevail,
where is heard the sea’s fanciful beat.

in the world enchanted 

along the fields fell song and a green pond emerged
in the rushes nets laid out
too many trees too many trees
in the world enchanted

gates out of silver –  on balcony the forest strikes
moon in the window a fluttering sail
in aged doors
not yet embraced by daybreak clasp
clatter of climbing cactuses along walls
carrying the black nest of sleep
night reigns
until they bent in the dark in half 
too many suns too many suns

and all this now is changing
earth trembles
downpour dreams 
long Wis?a days 

market – horses the cool at muzzles pressed
people waist high in carts no end
on storks in flying cradles dressed
several of their wings black from nests they tend

fairies ventured out on verdant streets 
to plait the hair of melancholy poets

long deep dahlias since time long past

guinea-pigs on organ grinders
going barefoot scent fresh from puddles
maybe you are in love
maybe you just please
that’s how fortunes are told in acacia leaves

in windows aged roller blinds
of night long and rolled up in sashes

town hall – cascading in rushes
on pigtail mallow flowers falling

church already faced with Gothic
fans the bell head with a cooling rose
children in their primers about to doze
this day in white
this little town
this school

poem to a little girl 

and where sailing ships take you – near forests palm flights
ribbons in the hair clamour like far away splashing oars
aren’t you afraid to sail by under black tent of nights
when the stars rustle ominously
chariot ablaze so low

at the table dear mother father
younger brothers playing lotto

evenings sweeter than raspberries

pictures aplenty in books
sad eyes paint their tender heart
only a shirt to secretly wipe tears 

shadows of table night edges certain 
in windows a silvery stream
flowing in swans of curtains

the lilac is cut from bush now spent
crackling white fire in the eyes gleams –
in manes they bear the bitter wheat scent
horses in the embrace of dreams 

summer is a strange time slowly reaches out to all
in the green echo of lime trees

that’s how it is in the flood of events
rustle of pages like carriages creak

dear mother hand over hand in long crochet needle work 
evenings sweeter than raspberries

and where they take you sailing ships near forests palm flights
there waves on the shore are pounding
ocean white knot shivers in the glass
nights in windows like roses are winding

in grand rooms children asleep
fleeting shapes of hunted birds
on arches of lips red seal wax
night snow storm of night shirts

one by one they fell onto pillows cool
in papyrus laid out dreams

summer is a strange time

fairies akin more to clear skies

the forester’s hut 

entangled somewhere near the border midst a dozen or so old pine trees
  wound in wild grape a forester’s hut and before it folds falls asleep into leaves
  out of the hut came he – instantly guessing who came –
  good evening – how are things – at last – I‘ve been forgetful – it’s been so many years
  the visitor from Warsaw was very thirsty so then tea began to be drunk
  turning over like pages cut open some days of old some in the past
  they all say you don’t write poetry now that it’s no longer published 
  forgotten in the provinces you are here  – such a great poet well well
  he probably didn’t understand him – only the vase with flowers remained
  through the glass of tea with a yellow slice of lemon by the wall it swayed 
  I was never a poet didn’t like poetry just as dreams 
  only my fear of death I arranged in fossil armfuls of reams
  but here there’s something else – in the leafy quiet window resounding like bell
  through the silver of stretched strings – through the pane of night I can now tell
  in the small drawing room they sat down cigarettes were smoked and cards played
  and the house entangled in wild grape verandas in forest like night open it stayed

the inn keeper who knew when he’d die 

in the murmur of moans brought to light
he had time to ponder –
on the border edged with room and May
windows where the moon likens apple 

in the rooms in her red pompom slippers the cook was roaming
placed her finger to her lips saying walk quietly, wipe your feet on the mat,
go to the porch tell the stable hand not to slam the door in the morning,
don’t disturb our master, he’s terribly surprised he’s dying like that

the lamp’s reflection passed hand to hand 
in the sobs of red rowan tree –
darkened footsteps branches broken land
on the edge of earth and heaven

the forest in the wind cold waves flung
dipped its head in the moon like in snow
and along fields the camp fires were sung
of sailors farewelling shores setting low



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