No. 4 & 5


Marek Baterowicz  

Translated from the Polish by Ryszard J. Reisner  



Stars wrapped in cast of daybreak
disappear into the sponge of clouds
milk laden

I awake on the surface of the light
which blinds my telescope
chasing remains of sleep

God in boundless kindness
once again returns soul to me
playing the flute of my bones

I hear their soft melody
which key do we have today?

Aeolian tune of a shepherd?

Dorian air from the hills?

Phrygian rattle of the sabre?

The tremelo of unknown song
trembles in the heart
awakened again on credit


The sky cleansed itself in the sea 
of fogs cloud and salt ?

and in blue unfurls the flag of kingdom - without storms

Ocean ? patient ocean ? purgatory 
for our thoughts 
and God's unrest

It is He since all time who smoothes the shores 
with the white hands of waves

and is scanning syllables 
whose meaning we don't wish to grasp


Sound here is the light
reflected in mirrors of rain,
the stalk and flower,
cut with the sweep of the bow,
by the moon in the prism of window
and pearl which falls down the stairs of Ponto Rialto.
Sound is also the shade,
fog and chords of sun over water,
when guitar rings out over the lagoon

doves are in gondolas,
standing under bridge,
on it a lion with a mane like autumn leaves,
on the roof of the basilica horses,
leaping over the chessboard world.
In a side street of balconies
you hear a madrigal from past centuries
- did Gabrieli compose it?
Voices carry across the water

we pass a player in a mask
- shade in a luminous tunic -
enchanted in everlasting smile
like a byzantine mural

    town of three elements
- and the fourth mystery and arte
they carry them high, winged lions
and bright syllables of the motet

*    *    *

Under the arch of triumphant Augustus
I review my defeats - there would not suffice stones, 
to lay a road out of them
to my hell,
I drag them with me through borders and bridges,
but yet your voice
leads me through vineyard,
which dries out over  the chasm of the age.

Nets tear in Mare Nostrum singing oysters 
and bright shells of stars drown.
We pray today for flood's mercy,
when from the other side of sea
burns the glow of burning homes -
what triumph did the bow bring there?

Here I breathe with essence of sun,
in cloud of fumes and I feel how air trembles,
the tremour of ground grows
- out of the arc of Augustus fall stones,
burying me and breaking abacus,
on which I summed disasters
and so, buried under stone,
I collect my household gods,
count the seconds exploding in the heart,
plunging me irreversibly
into Time’s whirlpool,
there the oyster's memories are severe
and wound like the shade, which returns -
for the entire compress you have only the shell's words
- their roots drink still
out of a far and virgin soil

Rimini July 30 1992

*  *  *

slowly I go by Tiberius bridge
thrown across water like a skeleton
its white vertebrae couple my day
with antiquity -
  I feel the boulders underfoot
  burnt by sun and heat of centuries
the shout of legion has echoed
over the dried out trough
- syllables and that day, turned into leaf,
fly away and I see myself on another shore
- river of my childhood
there, leaning, I dig from the sand
a roman coin,
my only temporal treasure,
I won't exchange it in any bank,
squeeze it in my palm and like a talisman
carry it over my heart,
until some hand will place it on my lips,
when I will be returning to the cradle,
to my lost homeland -
going by the same bridge of white stones,
thrown beyond the profoundness of our steps
on the other shore, free of indecision,
with a fresh heart I will join the legionnaires
standing on the guard of eternity.

Rimini July 29 1992


Though you loved fiercely, Catullus,
shore of the lake in Sirmio,
the manuscript of your verses survived
in a family town, intact
like a disc of amphitheatre brought here by the Caesars,
stone wall, brother of Time.
You could capture the moment like no other
- Passer deliciae meae puellae,
Quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere -
(sparrow, plaything of my beloved,
she plays with it, holds it to her breast)
until in journey you set out for a lengthy...
Did you long for the cypruses of Verona?
O, bard unhappy of fickle Lesbia
- her spells like puffs of mist
the wind dispersed on the hills of Rome,
and you in the sands of Bithynia wore out your sandals...
Returning from Greece you listened to the sea
with all your soul believing that Sappho
is the first among sirens.  Admit to yourself -
that you loved her above all else...

Verona August 26 1992


Here I grasped once again,
that my life
is like the bridge in Avignon,
which leads nowhere,
which finishes half way
in my steps.

And still I always see you
- second shore -
beyond river
where I am slowly sinking,
and where I drink daily
a sip of hope.

Avignon, August 30 1992


I am writing to you from the end of the earth,
waves crash here against rocks
older than craters of the moon
/as legends here say/
the cry of seagulls pierces
the bottlegreen surf of time
swirling after waves ebb,
in this place I am shipwrecked
on the cross road of Asia with the Pacific
and think of you slender as the cypress,
growing eternally over the Mare Nostrum,
the salt of that sea
is best for wounds,
for time here is pure
and innocent as myth,
only the images of childhood still
penetrate my soul,
and the self does not find a hold
drowning in the bottlegreen surf of time


I look over this place in the atlas
with the amazement worthy of a snail,
who discovered that he can live without a shell
and look again at the verdant space of map
full of squares, lines and circles
- there are rivers and winds crossing there,
roads and wilderness, deserts and streams,
borders and rail, statues and highways
  - I discern mountains and summits from the colours of altitude,
between prairies and sky, valleys and mountain passes,
peaks brimming with mist,
lakes open their pupils in the cooling sun,
animals look for refuge from fire,
sheaths of wheat drown in rain,
birds become silent when a sand storm approaches
- neither this struggle of elements, nor our hardships
does any map put on record.

Ocean limitless in its essence
fills the expanse of an atlas.
Here, on its shores is a place,
where with the amazement of a snail I discovered,
I can live without a shell
abandoned like a broken cradle.

Sydney 1993/1994



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