The Sarmatian Review

Poems by Krzysztof Koehler

Translated by W. Martin

From the volume Partyzant Prawdy (Kraków-Warszawa. Fundacja 'brulionu' and Arcana. 1996)

Hands covering face,
head turned to the light,
having made up and whispering
Yes Yes Yes Yes: Love,
right in the corner of this compartment
of this train gliding through the valley fog.

It all should have been: escape,
mockery, and death.
There was nothing.
Nothing actually worked,
it started to run,
and like duskit faded
with the light.

There's just one moment like this
in the course of any day:

Eternity lasts in just this way.

Two trails of smoke
and open fields.
The lively colors of leaves:
here boundlessness
already touches us.

An expanse
opening all the way
to the forest's edge.
My sight can't penetrate
any further,
unless, however, further
is just that
that changes the colors,
the seasons,
that lends
a kind of meaning
to the sky and to the plain.

grow mushrooms, and
under the shadow
of heavy branches
animals dart past.

And just there
is where the limit is. A restraint
of landscape,
a form in which
fate disloses itself.

Forest by forest,
Expanse by expanse,
we reach out to the essence.

Bound ever more tightly
to fate, like a train
dragging along underneath
a falling sky.

Snow, fog, greyish
slabs of frozen
ponds, the dismal
movement of waters,

through valleys, through
mounting sheafs of mists
over roofs;

In a prison echoed out
by a voice. A song of thanksgiving.
On the homestead of unending liberty.

In Poland. Here and now.

What more? What further impetus
can one take? What more is there to see?
Now, when so much is known,
I'm troubled over the end

the shadow of what's there. Long shadow.
Lying in its grave, and all of you,
crowding the valleys, slipping
down the mountains, persistently alive,

what could you possibly understand by
the end? Houses and churches,
a continually posited heaven
over the rooftops

o Strength, you that level upwards
incessantly, and you never cease,
and all of you that raise your eyes and grab
at whatever's there, those lofty outlooks,

o Providence, hollowing out trunks of trees
and satisfying souls,

What more? What more is there to know
when streams tightly compass
the valleys, and undergrowth indicates
routes for water?

Plenitude is already here.
Decrepit with winter, it caves in.
Clouds of smoke roughing up the air
And love.

And suddenly the train
halted, and under
a blue sky
I saw fields,
already green,
some sort of pond, clumps
of trees, houses
and hills.

Skylarks perforated
the air, and
a skein of geese
to the west.

It was pure
and maybe I was
even ready
to accept everything.
Really everything.

Perfect harmony
in the wink of an eye,

for which, for it to last,
I would have to renounce
what it was you just gave me,

but I could not
even imagine
any other way.

From the volume Wiersze (Kraków: Oficyna Literacka 1990)


"Poznalem stepowego podroz oceanu"
"Zeglowalem i w suchych stepach oceanu"
"Wjechalem na suchego stepy oceanu"
"Okrazyly mnie stepy na ksztalt oceanu"

A fly. Daybreak. Dusk. Some
hill in the background. A poem.
It's possible that the same sound
never takes place more than once.

The same phrase is rooted where
the rhythm lends sense to
the blood's coursing, though
what do I know? Door

left ajar, a fly whizzes past,
and a hand describes incessantly
as if it all were OTHERWISE,
with only NO and NOTHING different.

Nevertheless, "I sailed on", "expanse",
"the steppes", birds (cranes?), Mirza,
lectern, hand, and a fly,
the forest's edge, soul

all take place only once, that's
no doubt only so
they'll lead to the simple con-
sequence of any ex-
istence and rhythm: that this
is exactly as it has to
be, as it is or will be:
breath, Czatyrdach, grass billowing, verse.

Eclogue. August

Early autumn. Poplars shed
their leaves, and every afternoon
like a condemned man before
a firing squad, the sky pales.

A forest delicately caresses
the horizon, the air stands
still like a stutterer
before a consonant.

The summer suicidally
has burned out. The grasses yellowed.
For as long as time relentlessly
confers, through ripening,

its duration, the apple
will redden, fate sate itself
on the sough of leaves, on wind

on a thought's desiccated touch,
and on the roundness and aroma
of a proposition. One by one,
like spots or a clock's

ticks, drop the pears.
The plum overflows with its juices.
Bees drone, and a fly
congregation drowns out my voice.

Verses scatter. The sun's glare
penetrates, sweat drenches my eyes,
and my shirt, like that of a man wounded
in the chest, a consumptive's shirt or

a confessor's, it fuses with my body,
like a pair of Dioscuri.
There should be flocks of sheep,
shadows and fires on the hillsides,

nature's fin de siecle,
and yet
a wave thrashes the shore,
a boat pitches,

a dog wails, and infrequently when
the sound of a word apprehends
its own shadowsilence,
then my voice subsides in a whisper

ever more lavishly. Senility
continues dispatching new regiments
into battle, and abundance overflows.

A snake quietly slithers past.
Augustus' month
arches its Roman nose.

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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 09/24/98