Polish War Poetry
Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski
Polish War Poetry
Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski (1921-1944)
Translated by Alex Kurczaba
O you my inscrutable river,
I conceived you in marble slabs of light
And in the wood of fragrant pines,
With the chisels of oars.
I led you from the mighty mountains
From spaces full of voices
Where cataracts' knives shred snow
And songs rang forth like brass.
I peeled you off the portly apples
And with the hail's seed from clouds
I led you from plant stalks by a move of hand
Like skeins of glare.
I chiseled you out, I prayed you out
My heart crushing the chisel,
The chisel the rock, and now I possess you, power!
I possess you, penance!
Wherever I step, you pulsate like a living stream,
Vibrate like the organ,
And in my sleep I often see
Trees flowing through you.
But in your mane of golden sparks
Bloody mugs welter at night,
The ruddy jackals, manlike hammers,
Swords and the stares of beasts.
From them there grow in you at night
The twisted boughs of corpses' arms,
Black specters and dead hearts in graves
That lie to hearts.
And thus I have you, sacred river,
Am like a branch that's grown into you,
O soiled river, of clouds conceived,
That cannot be read by an oar.
November 26, 1942
Fear not the night -- it locks out
flying trees and bird tones
in the indiscernible dusky music
forged in space - golden demons
who sprinkling phosphorus amid the glare
rise white, azure, pink
rise in funnels of yellow sand
raise their heads sculpted in clouds,
Fear not the night. The cosmos' drops,
animal herds guard its fluff;
in it open your eyes, then you'll feel
beneath your palm birds and quiet horses,
you'll grasp the forms that while passing
unknown through you -- you will become.
Fear not the night. It's I who lead it
this living stream of transformation,
shining spirits, animals' processions,
which I enchant by name of forms.
Lay in the cradle your welled up eyes,
your body on the wings of the demons of light,
then you'll swim through me like a leaf
fallen into the tiger's warm purr.
December 21, 1941
The Spring ("Zródlo")
Raise your head like the spring
from it color will rise
and the naming of things
and the flow of seasons.
See, all is fulfilled,
time poured to the brims
and heaven sated with heat
like a golden fount.
And you can fulfill all
anew and conceive
spectacles in clouds
spouting for your eyes.
And everything you recall
will be deaf as the time
upon which as upon your body
your spirit shall swirl.
For to love means to create
to conceive in storm's hue
a sculpture of bird and star
in the marble of red afterblaze.
For you I'll open a golden heaven
in which a white thread of silence
like sounds' enormous kernel
will burst to live
with little green leaves
lakes' song, dusk's play,
till birds' whizz shows
its milky core
For you I'll transform the solid earth
into soft roe's fluid flow
Out of things I'll lead shadows,
that will stiffen like a cat,
fur sparkling they'll furl everything
into storms' color, little leaves' hearts,
the rains' gray plaits.
And the air's flaying streams
like smoke from an angelic thatch
I'll turn for you into long alleys
into the songlike fluid of translucent birches
till like a cello they play
sorrow -- the climbers' rose lights
hymn of bees' wings.
Only take out of these my eyes
the painful glass mirror -- image of days
which roll white skulls
through burning meadows of blood.
Only alter this crippled age,
cover the graves with the river's robe,
wipe from hair the battle dust,
The black dust
of these angry years.
June 15, 1943
The originals can be found in Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, Utwory zebrane, vol. 1. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1994.
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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 4/23/04