Five Poems

Marzanna Kielar, who teaches philosophy in Warsaw, has published two volumes of poetry, Sacra Conversazione (1992) and Materia Prima (2000). A German selection of her writing, In den Rillen eisiger Stunden, has in 2001 received the Herman Lenz Preis. She was a member of the IWP in fall '02.


Memory, allegedly birth, always
                                         (its rocky spires
and dune-echoes); I think of us on the ferry, approaching the island.
You sweeping my hair behind my ear,
whispering: "I'll go to synagogue and thank Him for giving you to me"--
the moment when love imparts its mortality
to immortality.

                               The night sky slopes aside,
eastward. And where the basalt of night is thinnest,
severed by streaks of erosion, dawn rises red-
fleshed. There is no easy passage between light and dark.
There is fire and there is raw black sky. Desert armor of the sea. Body of sleep
that splits along the length of the crevice, icy rust uncovered.

The forest in the depths of the island, dwarfed, leafless,
kneeling--when dawn strikes the horizon with a blood-shot fin.
And the foal, the day, tries to rise among the shrubs,
surrendering the afterbirth to the mother's tongue,
and each movement gives birth to a glint of sun.
I watch it pause opposite the sea--

and there is nothing that could pass,
and the wind takes its wings from the foam on the rocks, and the sky is unveiled, lit,
like the body after love, thrown on the shore at high tide.


The shipsides of the stone church are clad in ivy
and driven into skerry bank--
Gothic boats, powermongers, that carry the land
in holds below deck;

the storm's subsided. The clouds descend amphitheatrically downwards, into the
mountainous sea,
into the gray alleys of fallen columns, into the shattered arches of the arcades
sail fishing vessels


the sun appears only early mornings and late afternoons
like a vibrant plant that wants to hoard the desert dew

grains of ice, gnawed, strewn loose, burning then
in acetylene radiance.
Burning post-glacial gutters and smelting places in icy forests,
ice-jammed lakes with waters the color of iodine that receive
torrents of colossal tomes, dark
volumes of clouds;
burning the world Plato said was shaped from fire, water, wind, and earth.
Of fire--to be visible.


She is home within me with a double skin of glass.
She applies me to her lips like a frozen river.
Licks the sweat from stones.

Her lips whitened from imminent squalls,
her eyes that hold steel skeins as far as the horizon.
She wears wolf's hide, killing off her own wounded young, looking
at me crawling to water--

the luminous, sharp-edged sea strikes the shore
and shreds of life like foam settle on the granite headstones;
memory, that stormy wave, carries within it ample debris: rubble, fragments,

Clouds above this blood.
A sky that occurs and elapses, seeps into emptiness and frost.

She has owned my face since birth.

She doles out oxygen.
Opens me along a fused seam,
sweeps aside the snow inside me--she who dreams of me. A knife without a handle.

The breath of the avalanche in which I am born.

She. This.


even an hour ago the morning mist
forecast no such clarity, no such sky, enormous,
nor the brimming over of fish in the warmed waters of the pond;
the happiness of wild ducks bursting into flight,
leaving their traces on the creased sheet
of an August day,
long luring the gaze, calmer and calmer.
The basins of rust-red gardens fill
and spill over in ears of corn.
And you fall silent, strangely guiltless. Pure:

pleasant hills stand in the proud light,
and in the grasses, low, nestles death

translated by Jennifer Croft

Jennifer Croft, an MFA student in the translation program at the University of Iowa, is at present a Fulbright fellow in Warsaw.