No. 4 & 5


Tadeusz Rózewicz  

Translated from the Polish by Ryszard J. Reisner  



A wooden Christ 
from a medieval mystery play
is on all fours

covered in splinters of blood
in a collar of thorns
head bowed like a
thrashed dog

how the wood laps it up


After the world’s end
after death
I found myself in life’s centre
creating myself
building life
people animals landscapes

this is a table I would say
this is a table
on the table bread a knife
the knife serves to cut bread
bread is for people to eat

man should be loved
I learnt all night and day
what should be loved
I would reply man

this is a window I would say
this is a window
beyond window a garden
in the garden I see an apple-tree
the apple-tree blossoms
the blossom falls
fruit is forming

my father picks an apple
the man who picks the apple
is my father

I would sit on the threshold
that old woman who
leads a goat on a rope
is needed more
and worth more
than the seven wonders of the world
he who thinks feels
that she is not needed
is a mass murderer

this is a man
this is a tree this is bread

people eat so as to live
I would repeat to myself
human life is important
human life has great importance
the value of life
is greater than the value of all objects
that man has created
man is a great treasure
I would repeat stubbornly

this is water I would say
stroking the waves
and talked to the river
water I said
good water
this is me

man talked to the water 
talked to the moon
to flowers the rain
talked to the earth
to the birds
to the sky

the sky was silent
the earth was silent
if he would hear a voice
that flowed
from earth water and sky
it was the voice of another man

*   *   *

Dostojevsky said
that if he was told to choose
between truth and Jesus
he’d choose Jesus

at the end
I’m beginning to understand

birth life death
the resurrection of Jesus
are a great scandal
in the universe

without Jesus
our small earth
is stripped of importance

that Man
son of God
if he did die

comes to life again
at dawn every day
in everyone
in his footsteps


there is this monument
on the isle of Ostrów Tumski
sad deserted
a monument to Good Pope John

it stands untouched
failed (may God let duck
‘the creators’ for their
stroke of bad luck...)

no one here lays any wreaths
at times the wind sweeps by
newspapers and rubbish

someone left behind an empty 
beer can
the can rolls along the cobble-stones
a type of metal
techno music

Good Pope John
a cloud bringing rain
onto your face of stone
huge nose like Bobo up to his pranks

no one remembers
who raised it blessed it
left it behind
 April a time of national remembrance?

on the anniversary of the encyclcical
Pacem in terris
I noticed in a bottle
a dessicated flower
poor Roncallii
poor John XXIII
my pope
looks like a barrel
like an elephant 

well they’ve done You over in grey

are you not sad
Holy Father
my good-hearted father

take a stand
break your sleep
make for Rome
to Sotto il Monte 

devil a chapel God a church
there is in Wroclaw
a stone gargoyle perched

but in my heart
you have
the world’s most beautiful monument
I ‘m reading you
a poem by Norwid

 (according to Michelangelo

To sleep, to sleep beckons sweet, sweeter to be of stone
Today when such disgrace, dishonour is all known

you are smiling

you see John you’re all alone
for your monument ‘the thorn’
was put on show by Party hacks
some Pax or Caritas ersatz 
Christian linked to the government 
those were the dark days here
of cat and mouse
back then

in the good old days
  (according to Pan Tadeusz)

You remained true not losing
your good spirits and with stone
hand sprouting from your waist
like from a granite barrel
you bless me
Tadeusz Juda from Radomsk
about whom it’s said
he is an ‘atheist’

but my Good Pope
- me an atheist ?

and they continue to ask
what do you think of God
and I reply
it’s not important what I think of God
but what God thinks of me



The copyright of 
everything published 
here remains 
with the author's.


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